Thanks to some timely string-pulling on the part of Dr. Ali, I was moved out of the bustling community cardiac recovery room and relocated to a standard-issue two-person room further down the hall.
Instead of five roommates—the constant chatter, the beeping machines, and the public attempts to defecate into portable space toilets—I would now have just one person to concern myself with.
This person was an older man. His hair was a dull, militaristic grey, shorn close to his pumpkin-shaped skull. He wore heavy eyeglass frames that made him appear curious and frustrated at once. He looked like an unemployed owl.
The unemployed owl would not have been out of place—not at all—in the background of one of my grandmother’s fading Moose Club Polaroids from the 70’s.
When I initially walked into the room I found him sitting in the chair next to his bed, eating his dinner. He was hunched in a primal position over his tray, elbows planted firmly on the portable table. He held his face about six inches above the tray. This strange intimacy with the tray was presumably done to maximize his tray-to-mouth eating speed. The man ate so fast that his plastic fork clacked against the plastic tray like a cuckoo clock: tock, tock, tock.
He introduced himself as Donald. Or Harry. Or Bernard. It was something like that. What his real name was didn’t matter to me.
I would come to know him only as Wombat.
I head to Montreal for the Montreal International Game Summit, a.k.a. MIGS. I stay in a fancy hotel. I speak French poorly. I try to wax poetic about Montreal. (I try to wax poetic at least once or twice a month. Everyone should.) And I talk to the keynote speaker at MIGS, Adam Boyes.
Adam is Canadian. He worked at Sony for the last four years as the VP of Developer and Publisher Relations. Not too shabby for a kid from Canada, eh? When Adam would take the stage at the Sony Press Conference at E3 each year, Canadian gamers’ hearts skipped a beat. (Mine did.)
Adam left Sony, somewhat abruptly, earlier this year. When I heard he was leaving Sony, I thought, Has this guy lost his damn mind? Wake up, Adam! It’s Sony! That’s got to be an amazing place to work! You can probably get whatever flavour of Vitamin Water you want in the office kitchen!
He has an explanation. Because Adam always has an explanation. Enjoy.
It’s winter here, albeit a mercifully mild winter so far. I put on a jacket yesterday, then walked out of the house—right out the front door—without realizing that I’d left a pot of soup simmering on the stove.
My girlfriend noticed the simmering soup. She shut it off and told me about it when I returned.
My response was this: “Really? I did that?” I was surprised, of course, and embarrassed. And I was stubbornly skeptical, too. Even though I knew she was telling me the truth.
My brain is soft and cloudy now. What parts were damaged, and what parts still work, is ambiguous—and will always be ambiguous, thanks to the limited science we have on brains. During my brain’s softest, cloudiest moments, when something vaguely dangerous happens (like leaving soup simmering on the stove), doom settles in, wraps its arms around me, whispers in my ear, This is only the beginning. This is only going to get worse.
I was in Manhattan a few years back to attend New York Comic-Con at the consistently underwhelming convention center out on the Hudson River. (Does NYC deserve a better convention center than Javits? It does.) I was there to work a gauntlet of red carpets. My cameraman and I would interview all the SyFy Channel bottom-feeders, cut-rate VOD horror movie “stars,” and without fail, Kevin Smith.
The director of Clerks is positively ubiquitous at New York Comic-Con. He’s on every red carpet, even if he has nothing whatsoever to do with whatever it is that’s being promoted.
He simply shows up and starts talking about himself. Or Superman. Or both. (Usually both.) Smith always wears his hockey jersey, always sweats profusely and talks fast, and always, always finds a way to squeeze his swollen ego into every damn camera lens in the godforsaken vicinity.
Hello, folks. I’ve unofficially/officially changed the name of the show. Brief Conversations with Interesting People has now turned into Heavily Pixelated.
Q: Will this be the last name change, Scott?
A: I honestly don’t know.
A thing like this is always sort of evolving, I guess.
Q: Why “heavily pixelated”?
A: Pixels are often used in media to obscure things (see: a streaker at a baseball game). But, in the realm of video game people? Like me? Pixels can do the opposite. Pixels can simplify and clarify things.
I also like the rhythm of the name. I like the music of it. Say it again, out loud this time. One more time. Now count the number of syllables. (Note: you’re entitled to throw a series of haymakers in my general direction the next time you see me. I probably deserve it.)
Anyway, my friend Steven did a terrific job with the editing and the music in this. I’m especially fond of the opening theme. Every step Steven takes at this point feels like a good one.
This is my favorite episode. It’s centered around a used game store/collector’s paradise/competitive gaming dojo called A & C Games. A & C is in downtown Toronto. http://www.acgamesonline.com/ It’s huge, about the size of a small cornfield. A & C used to be a convenience mart that evolved into what it is now.
As always, if you have thoughts about how I should refine future episodes, please share. I’m need feedback.
Finally, thanks for listening. Sweet of you to do that.
Enough talk. Here we go.
[Answer: 7 syllables.]
Moving is exhausting, especially when you’re older, as I am now.
You have more tangible things to carry as you age—more crap, more junk, more history—and more intangible things, too.
I’m in the habit of getting rid of things now, instead of moving them. “Junking” is an exhilarating, soul-cleansing exercise. I put something in the dumpster and I think, That’s gone from my life now. Gone forever! Why the hell did I carry that around for all those years? What a damn fool I am!
But, like a soldier who loses a limb in battle, even when I throw things out or sell them on Craigslist, the ghosts of those things haunt me for awhile. I feel a tingle where the junked items used to be.
This morning, with 98-percent of my life in boxes, I found a magnet on my refrigerator—a magnet that I’d somehow been looking at without seeing for years.
It has the words of a Susan Polis Schutz poem written on it. Do you know Susan Polis Schutz? You might not know her consciously, but trust me, you know her words. The same way scientists claim that there is a spider within three feet of us at all times, a Susan Polis Schutz poem is within three feet of you—yes, you—at this very moment.
Schutz is a successful, ubiquitous greeting card-caliber poet. She does not skimp on the sentiment. She’s built a career out of saying the obvious.
My mother sent me the magnet.
Schutz’s poem on the magnet is titled TO MY AMAZING SON. It goes like this:
TO MY AMAZING SON
To see you happy
is what I always wished for you
Today I thought about your handsome face
and felt your excitement for life
and your genuine happiness
and I, as your mother burst with pride
as I realized that my dreams for you have come true
What an extraordinary person you have become
In the background is a body of water, an open sky at dawn, a couple of brown mountains. I popped the magnet off the refrigerator. The magnet itself was disappointingly weak, barely strong enough to hold it in place on the metal door.
I thought about my mother. She’s almost 70 now. Lives in Florida in a tiny apartment. I considered the sentiment on display. How bland, I thought. How completely anonymous, I thought. I felt the weight of the weak magnet in my hands. I looked at the brown mountains, the open sky at dawn. I tried to figure out what to do with this damn thing.
This girl I liked wanted to tell me about an encounter she once had with a B-level celebrity.
“Did I ever tell you about the time I was in line at the airport in Montreal and Celebrity X was in front of me?” she asked.
(It was Russell Brand. It’s always Russell Brand. Everyone I know has been in line in an airport behind Russell Brand at some point.)
“No, you didn’t tell me that one…” I said, wincing.
“Well, it’s an incredible story,” the girl said.
She rubbed her hands together excitedly, in anticipation of her own story. Then she began telling it.
I did not want to listen. Hearing about Celebrity X/Russell Brand would make me like the girl less. How much less? Who knew.
But ballpark? Let’s say that it would not be an insignificant amount.
Like a crazed, slobbering madman, I grabbed the wheel of the conversation and steered it in an entirely new direction. I thought I did this clumsily and obnoxiously, that I’d obviously botched it. To my surprise, the conversation thread drifted naturally in this new direction.
The girl forgot about Russell Brand entirely.
She didn’t bring him up again.
But the ghost of that conversation? It’s still out there. It’s still lurking about in the nether conversation world. One day that conversation will find me, mark my words…
Pop Quiz, Hotshot: What used video game is worth less than a penny?
Answer: Find out in today’s episode of “Brief Conversations with Interesting People” when I very gently ambush the unsuspecting staff at the game store in Metrotown Mall in Burnaby.
So who did I find behind the counter? And why are there only three-degrees of separation here in Vancouver as opposed to the usual six-degrees? Click that triangle shaped-doohickey below and you shall receive all answers via this virtual cornucopia/horn of plenty. (P.S. Happy Thanksgiving, Canada.)
[Note: After further review from my audio producer’s girlfriend, my audio producer felt, well, inspired to revise the podcast. So here’s V. 2. -Scott]
I didn’t go home last Christmas. Stayed here by myself. First time I’d ever done that. That’s crazy, I know, but true. As a mea culpa, I promised to visit in January in Florida.
I didn’t. Some work obligations came up. I rescheduled. I rescheduled again. The more I rescheduled, the more days I kept adding to the trip. “I can’t come now,” I’d say. Then I’d use my game show host voice to say the rest: “But I can come in X months. And when I do come in X months, I’ll stay for X amount of days. Also, YOU’VE WON A BRAND NEW 2016 FORD FIESTA CONVERTIBLE.”
In the end, after months of delays and promises, I agreed to a grand total of 12 days with my parents at the end of July. Which, for a middle aged man like me, is a completely absurd amount of time to spend with one’s parents.
I stayed with them in their RV on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake. The weather was absurdly nice that week—not too humid. A steady breeze blew off the lake and rattled the nearby trees. I wore camp shorts. Took the kayak out a couple times.
One afternoon I had a conversation with my father. He’s 72. Into self-preservation. His get-well tip for the summer: If anyone had trouble sleeping, my father would instruct them to eat 10 walnuts and drink 6-ounces of cherry juice just before going to bed. “Trust me, you’ll sleep like a baby,” he’d say.
I heard him share this advice with at least four other campers. Three of the four campers rolled their eyes at him as he told them this.
I was hoping to use our conversation as a pitch to a media outlet. The way my father positions himself as the informal medicine man in his community is strange and interesting to me.
But our conversation took some darker, more opinionated turns that disqualified it from pitch material.
He’s moody, like lots of fathers. He thinks he’s always right. You’ll hear all of that.
My father and I both looked out over the lake as we talked….
[Also: Special thanks to Steven Nikolic. He mixed the audio and wrote most of the the music.]
My father and mother arrived on Sunday to drop off the paper at the hospital. My father was obviously excited. “I found a place that sells it for $6 instead of $10,” he said with pride. The $10 Canadian price of the NY Times vexed and mystified him on a very deep level. I knew the place where he’d gotten such a discount: the dimly lit convenience mart on Davie Street that had about a hundred hookahs in the front window, all decorated with dazzling sprays of rhinestones.
I told him the store had been closed the year before for selling black market handguns.
“Who cares if they sell monkey paws and goblin eyes?” he asked. “If I can save four dollars, I’m going to save four dollars.”