In which I relive someone else’s childhood

I’ve said this before, on more than one occasion: forget about what year you were born; the clearest delineating line between those of us commonly assigned Generation X and the Millennials is the answer to the question Did Pokémon play any role in your childhood? If no: Gen X. If yes: Millennial. Now, that falls apart when talking to people younger than the Millennials, but it’s a pretty damn good rule of thumb for the “currently middle-aged or approaching same” generations.

If you are seven, Pokémon has a good chance of being your life, especially if you are a seven-year-old boy. Which my son is. He has hundreds of Pokémon cards (he has never actually played the game, at least not correctly) a wide variety of Pokémon-themed clothing, Pokémon stuffed animals, Pokémon pajamas, books, you name it.

I don’t know shit about this stuff. I am 42. I think in a lot of ways I have more in common with Millennials than my own generation (I have never really identified with Gen X; if pushed, I’ll claim the Star Wars or Oregon Trail generations) but I am totally in the cold on this Pokémon thing. I think it started hitting when I was in high school, too old to notice it, but I’m not really sure. My younger brother was never into it either so I missed it by a good several years.

Point is, we bought Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu for the Switch yesterday and the whole goddamn family has been playing the game all day today. It was my idea; I am bound and determined to understand something about this weird-ass bullshit and if a roleplaying game can’t pull me into Pokémon on at least a superficial level then nothing can. I gotta say, other than the standard garbage control scheme that comes with every single Switch game (motion controls can die in a fire; I don’t ever want them again in anything I play, ever again) it’s actually a pretty good time; the boy was ecstatic about it, and the Switch has owned the TV all day. Under ordinary circumstances I might look askance upon the idea of literally spending the entire day playing video games; it’s snowy as hell outside and a three-day weekend and right now Daddy don’t care. I’m gonna find out what the fuck a Machamp is this weekend if it kills me, and I swear to God I just looked over and told him to go find some “ground types” to fight in a “gym” so he can earn a “badge.” I think I might have even used the terms correctly.

So, yeah. Weather outside is frightful and all that. What are y’all doing?

Fuck cancer

(A note, before I begin: there is going to be a nonzero number of you who know me in Real Life and also knew Becky. Her parents, who I know, and sister, who I really don’t, are on Facebook and have been monitoring her page. She followed Luther, but was not friends with his account. If her family sees this, they see it, but I would appreciate it if no one goes out of their way to bring it to their attention. I am, as will probably become clear pretty quickly, writing it for me, not for them, if that makes any sense. Thank you.)

Becky Arney died yesterday. She used to pull my hair in fifth grade, and now she’s gone.

She was two months younger than me, and had been fighting cancer for nine Goddamned years. She spent most of the last month of her life in the hospital until her family finally decided she’d had enough and brought her home.

Nine damn years. The cancer started off as a small-cell cervical cancer that, as far as I ever understood, had a five-year life expectancy just north of “you’re kidding, right?” and she managed nine years. I think it was actually liver failure that got her in the end; the cancer was in remission for a while but then popped up in a bunch of other organs and that was the essential body part that gave out first.

The biggest problem I’ve ever had in my life is being able to see my feet past my ample fucking gut and this badass bitch got handed a life where she had to beat the shit out of cancer on a daily basis for nine fucking years in her thirties and forties. And frankly she did not lead the sort of life prior to getting cancer that was going to lead to gold-plated health insurance, either. She worked in the arts. She worked in prop design. I can only imagine the extent of the medical bills.

She was my first real crush, in fifth grade. If you look at my fourth grade yearbook there’s one particular girl whose picture I drew a green box around, but I don’t remember anything about falling for her. My unrequited thing for Becky lasted two or three years, at least. It was a Thing for a While. She knew; I’m sure she did. There was one particular field trip in sixth grade to a museum in Chicago where she spent the whole day letting me take her picture next to dinosaur bones and then sat behind me and intermittently pulled my hair the whole way home. She knew. By high school we were friends; we drifted apart when I left for college and then reconnected via Facebook just after I moved home and got married.

The last time I saw her, I was with my wife and son at Bob Evans, of all the goddamn places, and she just happened to be there with her grandmother. It was the only time she ever met my son; my wife was a couple of years behind us in high school so they already knew each other. When I killed my personal Facebook account, she didn’t send Luther a friend request, but she continued to follow the page, and I got updates from my wife.

She lived with her grandmother after she got sick. Imagine that. Imagine being old enough to be a grandmother to someone in their forties and you eventually have to bury them. I can’t do it.

There is not going to be a funeral, which is good, because I am generally not good at funerals at the best of times and I think there’s a good chance that “absolutely everyone from high school is there!” will not qualify as The Best of Times. She was that person who had every single person from our graduating class she could find and a sizable number of the kids from within a couple of years of us on her friends list. The eventual “celebration of life” that her obituary alludes to will be a de facto high school reunion. I have already skipped three high school reunions. I don’t know that I can make myself go to this one. We’ll see.

I’m not old enough to have to be writing this shit yet. She wasn’t old enough that I should have been writing this about her. She should have been raising the kids she never got to have, or doing whatever else the hell she wanted to do if she didn’t want to have kids. I can only assume that a cancer diagnosis at 33 can tend to alter your plans.

I used to tell people that I wasn’t really scared of anything, other than blindness, which was my greatest fear for most of my life. But for the last few days, which have been spent mostly restraining the urge to ask my wife to check Facebook again to see if her family has posted any updates, I’ve gotten this cold sort of existential horror in my gut every time I’ve looked at my son. Because apparently I’ve reached the age where people my age start dying of fucking cancer and so that’s a thing I need to start worrying about. About leaving him behind, before either of us is ready. About, hell, something happening to him. Because she was young, but it ain’t like cancer is especially discriminating, now, is it? And it’s not like this has been unique to the last few days– she had had cancer for two years before my son was even born, and one thing every parent becomes familiar with very quickly after their first child is born is the notion of their own mortality.

(This is what I meant when I said I was writing this for me, by the way.)

I don’t know. I don’t have a cute or clever way to end this, so I’m just going to stop writing.

Fuck cancer.

#Weekendcoffeeshare: Everything is Awful edition

If we were having coffee, I would kind of feel sorry for you, because man, am I not fit for human company at the moment.  I was snarling at my son before I even managed to get out of bed this morning, the news makes me want to cut people, and this new WordPress editor continues to be annoying.  I’ve figured out (with help from Steve D) how to do inline graphics like I want to, but the procedure for it is so ridiculous compared to the last editor that I almost wish I didn’t know.  

Also gone in this new editor: the ability to copy a post, again, which is something I use all the time.  So, yeah, I’m still not onboard with this nonsense.  Not at all.

Oh, and the image appears to be moving down on the screen the more I type, which isn’t how inline images are supposed to work.  I don’t know what the deal is with that.  Maybe just wrap the text, WordPress?  It’s been something HTML has been able to handle for literally as long as there has been HTML.

Yep, still slowly moving down the screen.  So maybe the “Media & Text” block isn’t what I want here.

(Tries to fiddle with settings in this block, somehow all the sudden the entire block is in what looks like 30-point text, swears, gives up, copies what I’ve written, starts over.)

Okay.  There’s a “classic” block that seems to work? And when I looked in Preview, not only did the “Media and Text” block look stupid in general, but it resized the image to super-small and awful.  So literally none of this shit works at all anymore and this cannot possibly be how they want this to be.  I am tired of everything being bullshit, coffee person, and you really shouldn’t be sitting with me right now, because I’m not fit for human company.

Amazon update: I got a notification from them on Friday that they had shipped me … wait for it … one book out of the 28 or 29 that I ordered.  It is supposed to arrive today.  The cover will be on upside-down, inside-out, and no doubt on the wrong book altogether.  I got an email this morning that the rest of them have shipped and will be here tomorrow.  I fully expect them to be completely destroyed or otherwise unsalable when they arrive.  I also expect to have to spend most of my winter break reformatting everything so that I can use Ingram Spark for my printing needs now rather than Amazon.  I’m in too deep with them to even pretend that “Oh, I won’t buy books from there anymore” is a viable option, but I can sure as hell move my POD business elsewhere.  

Later today– in about half an hour, actually– my son is having a friend over for a few hours, so there will be twice as many seven-year-old boys in the house as I’m used to.  This, for once, is not me complaining; one of the disadvantages to only having one kid (and my wife and I both being temperamentally disinclined to socialize if we don’t have to) is that my son doesn’t have as many opportunities to play with other kids as I want him to.  Yesterday he tried to get me to play a game with him that he was making up as we were going along, and it became increasingly clear the harder he tried that I am a terrible father, because I don’t have the patience for the seven level-ups and eighteen unlockable weapons and two thousand interminable fucking rules that he wants to have for what boils down to “we are surrounded by invisible enemies that we must kill.”  There is no actual play, only endless iterations on the rules of the game.

A topic for later: how my kid’s conception of play has been irreversibly altered by role-playing video games.  Because whenever I was making games up with my friends as a kid, they sure as hell never involved lining up every toy sword and Nerf gun in the house so that we could “unlock” them as we played.  

My solution to this, by the way, is that I want him to have friends over more often.  I always felt that my house was where all my friends always ended up when I was a kid.  I want him to feel the same way.  The problem is I don’t think my parents did it that way because playing with me gave them headaches.  Maybe it did, though; I dunno.  Dad will no doubt chime in and let me know.  🙂

I like the drop caps, coffee person.  They will no doubt get annoying eventually, but for now I enjoy them.

Later today I’m making cornbread and chili.  With luck, it will improve my mood.  In the meantime, I’m off to the shower; one of the other fun things about the boy having a friend over is that it’s one of the kids from Hogwarts whose parents have way, way, way more money than we do so everything must be looking nice when they get here to drop the boy off and I cannot allow myself to be lazing around in my sweatpants like I am now.  My pointless and, it should be made clear, utterly unnecessary status anxieties can be something we investigate later, I suspect.

ETA:  I found a typo and jumped back in to edit it and this is what I was greeted with.  Also, I’m done with drop caps already because I don’t like how they look.  But, yeah, WordPress, you really think this editor is ready for the public?:

(can’t figure out how to add an image this far down in the post)

(Oh God FUCK THIS)

(Okay, there’s a button in the top-left to add a new “block.”  Sure, THAT’S TOTALLY INTUITIVE, WORDPRESS.)

This is what the top of my post looks like now…
…and this is what I get if I click “Resolve.”  Oh, and choosing “upload image” doesn’t actually upload an image when I try to do that.  It just crashes.

You have no idea how much swearing I’m doing over here right now.  I hate this SO MUCH.

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Guess Who’s Back edition

weekend-coffee-share

If we were having coffee … well, I’d be really confused, because it’s 7:15, and what the hell are we having coffee for at 7:15 on a Sunday night when I have to be back at work tomorrow?  But I was gonna write this post this morning, and it was going to be my probably-not-actually-long-awaited return to Weekend Coffee Share, which I haven’t participated in in forever.  So it’s still a WCS post and to hell with making sense.

So.  If we were having coffee, first I’d tell you about this book I started yesterday, and the reason I didn’t get a post up this morning is that I couldn’t put the damn book down until I was finished with it.  Do you like Sherlock Holmes?  Of course you do.  So you need to check out A Study in Honor, by Claire O’Dell, which is a Sherlock Holmes story, only it’s set in the future after the Second Civil War (Watson is still a veteran, and in fact has pretty bad PTSD) and Holmes and Watson are both queer black women.

I read it in about three hours– maybe an hour before bed last night and another two this morning, and I’m already reloading Amazon over and over again waiting for a sequel.  Go check it out, it’s great.

After that we might get into talking about religion a bit, believe it or not.  One of my oldest friends was in town this weekend with her three kids– her oldest daughter is twelve, her middle child (the only boy) is eight, putting him more or less at my son’s age, and her youngest, another daughter, is five.  We went to the zoo the first day they were in town and took them over to look around on Notre Dame’s campus the next day which, believe it or not, was the first time I’d ever seen the Grotto or the inside of the Basilica despite having lived in South Bend for 2/3 of my life or so.  The Basilica is absolutely amazing even if you have my, uh, somewhat unorthodox views on Christianity and religion in general– I may be a mean old atheist with a couple of degrees in religious studies, which, believe me, is the worst kind of mean old atheist, but I sure as hell can appreciate me some architecture.

It turns out that they keep docents around to give impromptu tours to the people who randomly wander into the place, and once ours determined that the oldest of the four kids was interested in being an architect she got real interesting real fast.  And then we got to the reliquary, which contains something like sixteen hundred relics of saints, and … man, it has been a minute since I have been around seriously religious people in a context where their serious-religiousness had a chance of playing a major role in the conversation.  And I’m not enough of an asshole to start a fight about this stuff, but I’ll admit it threw me for a hell of a loop when she pointed at one particular ornate cross and stated that it contained all of the following:

  • A piece of Jesus’ manger
  • A piece of the table the Last Supper was eaten at
  • A piece of Jesus’ burial shroud and
  • A fragment of the True Cross

And I had this moment of oh, holy shit, you genuinely believe every word you just said is true, and knew myself to be wholly in the presence of someone who does not view any part of the world the way I do.  Which, don’t get me wrong, is fine.  I don’t care.  She’s explaining her faith to me and my family and my friends and she’s being very very nice about it and frankly I’m in her house and I’m not about to start being a dick about her believing stuff I don’t believe.  You do you, nice lady.  There’s no problem here.

And then my son started talking, and as it turns out Daddy’s Little Empiricist has had absolutely no religious training of any kind at all, and, well, there’s some stuff that we kinda just assumed the wider culture would take care of for us?  I mean, we didn’t tell him about Santa Claus, and he knows all about that, and …

… well, as it turns out my son doesn’t know a god damn thing about Jesus.  And I think this lady has probably been doing her job for a good long time and she’s probably been asked a bunch of stuff and she’s probably had a handful of argumentative old atheists in that basilica on a couple of occasions and she was nonetheless not prepared for my son and his we-stole-him-from-a-South-American-jungle level of Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout Jesus.

He can tell you anything about the Avengers, though.

So yeah.  That happened.  How’s the coffee?

In which we build, ctd.

IMG_0004

Something happened today that, somehow, hasn’t happened yet, despite the fact that the boy is in first grade: he woke up feeling sick, and I decided to call in myself and keep him home for the day.  By noon my plan had been shown to be less than wise; a headache so bad that it had him swaying in the morning had given way to, well, nothing, and I’m finding myself fighting off a slightly delayed case of con crud.  I think it’ll run its course today and be done tomorrow, but I’m definitely low on spoons, if you know what I mean.

We spent the morning in Minecraft again, and I added a floating cabin, complete with waterfall and a manmade lake underneath, plus the totally-made-up flaming magic rocks that help it float– the floor in the house is actually made of glass covered in carpet because glass won’t burn and nothing else I was putting down was keeping the fires from getting through.  All of this is across the river from yesterday’s efforts.

In the background there is another floating fountain made of emerald.  Yes, there’s apparently a theme in this world; much like IT, everything floats down here.

Less mangled children, though, I suppose.

I’ll try and write something that isn’t about Minecraft tomorrow.  If nothing else, I have a book review or two to write.