On my other kid

Pictured: not my kid, my kid

I just dug through a month’s worth of posts from five years ago to determine that, probably because she was a minor at the time and isn’t actually my kid, I didn’t mention that a former student stayed in my house overnight before the last Washington D.C. trip I chaperoned way back in the day. Technically she probably shouldn’t have been on the trip, but she’d signed up before moving to Arizona and I literally had her mom assign me temporary legal custody of her and just didn’t tell anybody about it.

I took a picture of her sitting on my couch, and I remember posting it to Facebook with a caption something along the lines of “Why is this in my house?,” which entertained a number of her other teachers who I was friends with at the time.

She is 19 now, and is back in town again, and I picked her up at the airport last night, and she’ll probably be here tonight too before spending the rest of the week with other family and friends. And last night, as we were driving back from the airport, she got a text message from one of her friends directing us to visit her at her job at Arby’s. The friend is also a former student.

So were two other employees at that Arby’s, including another kid who had been on that same DC trip. All four of them were in the same class, which was hands-down the best group of kids I ever had. And I had them twice, first in 6th grade and then when they were 8th graders. So it happened that I, a grown man less than a month from his 43rd birthday, found myself in an Arby’s at 10:15 on a Friday night, after the lobby had closed, at least nominally hanging out with four nineteen-year-olds, three of whom were at least technically at work (and one the manager) and none of whom seemed to think it was remotely weird that 1) I was there in the first place or 2) I was the person who had been assigned the duty of picking this kid up at the airport, a job that one might think would have gone to, like, actual family, but we all have our priorities where they should be apparently.

And I spent about twenty minutes bouncing back and forth between this is at least a little creepy and hey, Hacienda is right across the street, do you guys want to go over there for a while after you get off work? Because age difference or not this really was a great group of kids and it turns out they have not gotten less interesting as they’ve aged into young adulthood.

And I’m just gonna leave that thought there, because I’m not sure I have anything else to add to it, but yeah: last night was kind of surreal.

(About the picture: the boy didn’t remember her from her last visit, which wasn’t surprising, but as soon as he discovered she was wearing Psyduck socks she became his favorite person ever.)

Three Christmas anecdotes

FIRST: I have been firmly on the Don’t Buy Me Anything train for Christmas for several years now, but this year my wife and I agreed to exchange one gift each. My wife won with this gift, which is an assortment of beard-grooming tools: a brush, which is gonna get used multiple times a day, beard-specific shampoo, which will get used as often as I need to use it, and beard balm and beard oil, which … well, we’ll see. This is actually just about the perfect Christmas gift, really– something that I would never have thought to buy for myself in a million years and would never have guessed that she’d gotten me in advance, but which I immediately realized upon receiving that it’s something I needed and am going to use all the time.

It is also a subtle dig at my hygiene, which a lesser person might choose to take as an insult but which I’m deciding I’m entertained by. 🙂

SECOND: My son received three different gifts that he already had. One was a set of Minecraft sheets, which both my wife and her sister bought him in a bit of a communications breakdown. Second was a Transformer. I’m kind of irritated about the Transformer; he got it because he brought it to me in the comic shop last week and announced that he wanted me to buy it. I reminded him that Christmas was in a couple of days and made him put it back, then immediately took it to the counter and asked them to hold onto it until I could come back without the boy and buy it. They did, and I did. The second he unwrapped it he announced he already had it and went and produced the original figure. Then he argued with me about whether he’d picked it out or not.

Like. Dude. Yes the fuck you did. That’s the only reason I bought the goddamn thing.

THIRD: Okay, maybe technically this is two-and-a-half anecdotes, but whatever. He also got one of these two tumbler cars from my mom and dad. He already had one of these, too, but he immediately decided he was excited about having two because now we can race them. So, OK. No problem there. The punchline: I’m pretty sure they alsobought him the original one.

My mom just called a few minutes ago. My dad was in their office looking for something. He found a third bright red Sharper Image tumbler car in the office while he was looking for whatever he was looking for.

Apparently Mom and Dad really want my kid to have this toy.

In which I save Christmas

We didn’t have marshmallows.

No one was quite sure how it was that we didn’t have marshmallows, but we didn’t have marshmallows. And you cannot make Heavenly Salad without fuckin’ marshmallows. The ingredients: Grapes. Pineapple. Juice from same. Heavy cream. Milk. Lemon juice. Sugar. And marshmallows.  They’re kinda important. And we didn’t have any.

At 8:4fuckin7 PM on Christmas Eve.

Turns out Walgreens is open on Christmas Eve. The 24-hour stores are still 24-hour, believe it or not. And there’s one close. We go back and forth a couple of times about 1) whether we actually need Heavenly Salad for Christmas dinner (yeah, we kinda do) and 2) whether Walgreens is likely to have marshmallows.

Walgreens.com allows me to search the inventory of individual stores and I discover that my Walgreens claims to have 10 packages of small marshmallows, but none of the traditional size. I have a vague memory of having tried this trick with the smaller marshmallows in the past and not being super happy with the results, but fuck it; I’d rather have undersized marshmallows than no Heavenly Salad.

I have to wait for a parking spot at Walgreens. Which is packed. Which I suppose isn’t terribly surprising. The employees, who know full and goddamn well that everyone there needs one thing and one thing only, are bouncing back and forth from customer to customer, basically pointing, barking “What do you need?” and leading them to that one thing. I overhear a conversation where one family is carefully explaining that they need macaroni, because their “side dish” is macaroni and cheese, and I realize with some horror that they mean Kraft macaroni and cheese, and I have a sudden flashback to this lady:

I don’t object to macaroni and cheese for Christmas, mind you– I thought about making it myself– but macaroni and cheese from scratch isn’t hard. It’s not even much more expensive! No one should be bringing freaking Kraft Dinner to Christmas. They actually have all the ingredients to make it from scratch! I can see them from where I’m standing!

I find my marshmallows. It turns out they actually do have one bag of the proper size, and technically I only need the one bag, but the bag appears to have been exposed to extreme heat if not an actual flamethrower at some point and I reject it in favor of two bags of the smaller ones. But hey! I have marshmallows! Victory!

I get in line to buy my marshmallows. The cashiers appear to be in genuinely good moods, and they’re having the exact same conversation with everyone, and everyone in line appears to be grateful and happy and not at all the assortment of miserable bastards that I was expecting. There are lots of thank-yous being tossed around.

I glance at the guy in front of me. He is carrying the following items:

  1. A single DiGiorno personal microwave pizza
  2. One (1) liter bottle of Mountain Dew

and nothing else.

I briefly consider asking him if he needs help, or if he needs an adult. Like, dude, do you want to come home with me? Because you are buying a microwave pizza and a Mountain Dew at 9:00 on Christmas Eve and if that is not a cry for help I cannot imagine what could possibly make it any worse.

And then, as if he can hear me, he gets out of line and wanders off somewhere. I do not follow him, because Jesus awkward, so instead I just buy my marshmallows and head home. I am very grateful to the people behind the counter and they are very nice to me.

And I have saved Christmas.

In which the Great Old One emerges

IMG_7694It looks like it took the cat just over six weeks to realize that the dog is really, truly dead and is not hiding somewhere in the house waiting for her to lower her guard.  The dog, mind you, never gave a damn whether the cat existed or not, and they’ve lived together for over ten years regardless, a length of time that you would think might convince the cat that the dog was, if not a friend, at least something not to be constantly feared.

BUT!  Witness, my friends, as my 20-year-old asshole cat Mizu takes the Sam Gamgee-esque single step that places her as far as she’s ever deliberately been from our bedroom, which you would be able to almost see the door of were hte picture at a slightly different angle.  We have been living in this house for seven years.  See that one paw on the grey flooring in our dining room?  it is literally the first time she has ever set foot in that room.  In seven years.  Not once.  A moment later, she went into the family room, which is to the left.  She’d never been in there either.

Five or six years from now, when my son is in middle school, she might allow him to pet her.

RAGEQUIT! Or: I Went to Target

targetI had a moderately– but only moderately– stressful day at work today, which made me think when I got home that a nice way to relax might be to spend some time playing the vidya gaemz.  And did I play Spider-Man, with its soothing and fun web-slinging action?  No.  I played Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, which is a fucking bastard of a game.

I played Dark Souls II to relax.

Those of you who have played this game are laughing at me right now, and you are right to do so.

So here’s the deal with the Dark Souls series: first, it’s balls-hard even just in the basic gameplay.  It doesn’t matter how big, rough and tough your character is; lose focus and even the lowliest scrub enemy is going to be able to kill you in a few hits.  On top of that, you gain experience by killing bad guys like you do in a lot of games, but you actually spend that experience like currency to gain levels, and you can’t do that just anywhere; each game in the series has one place where you can gain those levels.  And if you get killed, you drop all your experience points in the place where you died.  Want those thousands of XP representing a few possible levels back?  You gotta get back to where you just got killed without getting killed again and pick ’em back up, then escape to get where you can actually use them. Die again along the way? Too bad so sad, them shits are gone.

And DSII: SotFS is a special edition, one where they added a bunch of enemies, because apparently vanilla Dark Souls isn’t fucking hard enough.

Long story short; I got killed like three thousand times in a row, in a very enemy-heavy area, where none of the enemies are very tough but if you quit paying attention even for a couple seconds you’re dead, and the last time I left like four levels’ worth of XP on the table when some fucker I’d missed and walked right past stabbed me in the back, maybe three feet from my damn green blob of love.

And I did something I haven’t done in something like 35 years of gaming:  I broke my fucking controller.  I spiked the thing like a goddamn football and then watched as the PS4 helpfully told me that it had lost contact with the controller.

Fuuuuck.

Fifteen minutes to dinner.  Well, I can’t turn the damn game off without a controller, and the boy’s gonna want to play Spider-Man later, so… Target is pretty close.  I can totally go to Target and get a new controller in fifteen minutes.

Off to Target.  I’m on a mission and I know exactly where I’m going, so I don’t pay too much attention to the young lady who smiles at me and says hello as I’m walking past her, and I say hello back but I’m probably fifteen feet past her before I realize that I’m pretty sure she’s a former student, one who I haven’t seen since sixth grade (she moved) and who just graduated high school.  But I don’t realize it until I’m well past the point where I can turn back around and say hi, plus I legitimately haven’t seen the kid in six years and I’m not 100% sure.

I find the video game section.  I find PS4 controllers.  They’re locked up.  And someone else smiles at me and asks me where the Xbox controllers are.

And I realize I’m in Target in a red shirt.  Sigh.

I know the answer, so fuck it, I answer her question.

A moment later, someone in a blue shirt asks me if I need any help, and I have a brief split-second of pure confusion– because I don’t work here, and someone just asked me for help, and you clearly don’t work here, so why are you asking me if you can help me?

And then I see the Target Security logo on his blue shirt.  Oh, OK.  Fine.  Gimme this controller.

He goes and gets a guy.  The guy is maybe 25.  And by this point I’m sort of laughing at myself, so I tell the guy that I’ve been a gamer for something like 35 years and I just rage-smashed my first controller.

He laughs, and– I swear to God, and these games are old enough that it makes no sense that he said this– says “Dark Souls or Bloodborne?”

“Dark Souls II.  The No-Man’s Wharf.”

And he knows exactly what I’m talking about, and we commiserate for a minute or two, and he offers me a protection plan on the new controller, which I decline and I probably should have bought.

And then I see a second former student, also looking for video game paraphernalia, although this one doesn’t immediately recognize me.   And he’s got a bunch of friends with him so I don’t bother saying hi.

And then I leave.  Or at least try to.

And then I see a third former student, this one also an employee, and we talk for a moment.  And then I see the first former student again, and yes, it’s her, and she laughs and tells me she’d just sent a text message to someone else from her class who she knows I’m still in touch with to ask her to ask me if I’d just been to Target.

I, of course, had been thinking that I’d text that exact same person to see if the first girl worked at Target, so this plan makes perfect sense.

And then I went home, ate dinner, resolved to go directly to the boss of the stage without bothering to go get my souls along the way, because fuck them, died while doing that by falling off a Goddamned bridge, then finally made it to the boss and not only beat that bastard on the first try but I didn’t even get hit.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t break controllers, and if you do you shouldn’t leave your house afterwards.

The end.