The Last Three Days

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First off, I’m sorry I haven’t written anything of substance for the last couple of days. Things have been really busy on this vacation and I’ve gotten in with just enough energy in the tank to say “I’ll get you tomorrow” twice and then go immediately to bed.So today’s blog post is going to cover the last three days – Saturday, Sunday, and today.

Saturday was the day that my wife’s best friend held a party in her her honor. We went over to their place early so we could help get things ready. My wife and her best friend mostly cleaned (I helped some) and I mostly did homework and played Secret World Legends in an attempt to occupy my wife’s best friend’s three year old. (Trying to play a game in a zombie-infested town in rural Maine with a toddler watching is very interesting, and pretty amusing. About every fifteen to twenty seconds I was asked what I was doing, and then that was followed by a litany of “why?” until the next time to ask what I was doing came around. This was occasionally interrupted when it was pointed out that I was running down the middle of the street – a perfectly safe thing to do, since all vehicles were either abandoned or being used as a barricade – because you shouldn’t walk in the street. So I had to use the sidewalk for the better part of my gaming session. Oh, and I couldn’t jump over fences either. It was cute.) The party that evening was not a big one, there were sixteen people there total, but there were only six of those people that I knew before the party, and three of the attendees were children, so this was a big test of my anxiety. I had to be social for hours with strangers, and all while the kids were playing fairly to really loudly indoors. I did really well, however. I talked with everyone at least a little bit, had a few protracted conversations with people I’d just met, and only went outside twice to get a little peace from the noise of several conversations mingling with kids at play. We were among the last to leave, and I genuinely had a good time.

Sunday was the day that we went to do the one touristy thing that I asked to do during this trip, that being to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We got into San Francisco and traffic started getting worse the closer we were to the city, and then we hit the area around Golden Gate Park and traffic came to a complete standstill. It took us well over 30 minutes to travel a mile through the worse gridlock I’ve ever seen in person. We were on our way to a particular spot to see the bridge, and on the way we missed our turns twice, complicating the trip even further. With the second miss, we had committed to actually crossing the bridge, which we did just long enough to turn around and come back, and finally traveling this way the way to my pre-ordained spot was clear. There was traffic, however, and no place to park, so there were some hurried photos taken before we had to drive on. One of those photos is above, and the significance of the place is that it is marked on Google Maps as the future home of Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy. For those that have seen the movies, the background of this photo might look a little familiar. Once we finished there, we started searching around for a place to refill our loaner car, and once we’d done that, we headed off to meet a fellow DJ from the radio station. We had a great visit with him, probably a couple hours at least, and then we dropped him off at the BART station to head back home, and we then drove to my wife’s best friend’s house for dinner and conversation for a few more hours before heading back to where we are staying for the night.

This morning we went around to some of the communities around the San Jose area just seeing what the towns looked like. I saw some places that were notable from my wife’s childhood, as well as a few tourist locations, including Winchester Mystery House and the new Apple Park complex. We also took a considerable amount of time to find a particular business that was very near and dear to our hearts, and after looking in three places using two mapping applications, we finally arrived at the corporate office for the Society for Creative Anachronism, the historical re-creation organization that my wife and I have been part of for around 20 years and that we met through. Having reached our fill of driving around, we went back to where we’re staying and took a nap.

Tonight will be a big dinner at our hosts’ house, with the two of them, their younger son – my wife’s best friend – and his family, and the two of us. It’ll be a last chance to visit with all of them before we start packing things up in preparation to fly home early tomorrow morning.

This has been an incredible trip. I’ve gotten to see a lot of the Bay Area and know now why the cost of living here is so expensive – the place is utterly gorgeous. More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to see places and meet people that are important to my wife. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It has been twenty years since my wife was last here in California, and these last few days have been some of the best she’s had since we got together over seventeen years ago. I have made promises to several people that it will not be another twenty years before we come back to visit. There’s still so much that I haven’t seen, and I want her friends and me to have the opportunity to get to know one another better.

Tomorrow’s going to be a hectic day. Besides the flight, I have a lot of studying to do in preparation for a biology quiz on Wednesday and an algebra test on Thursday. I genuinely hope I do well – I would prefer not to have more grades that are on the low side, especially on that test. While the low quiz score will be dropped, that won’t be the case with the test, and I’ve been doing a lot of my work up to this point open-book, something that the testing center won’t allow. If I can get through this week, I think school will be easier to handle for a while.

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Happy Birthday My Friend

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This afternoon my wife and I drove down to the west side of San Antonio to attend a dear friend and mentor’s 70th birthday party. The trip down was full of stop-and-go traffic, and I passed the time by reading a chapter of my biology homework on my tablet during the drive.

We got to his daughter’s home and finally got a chance to meet the rest of his family that we didn’t already know – his daughter and her husband and kids, and his youngest son’s girlfriend. They’re all super nice people and it was good to finally get to meet them.

There were also several of our friends there as well, and we enjoyed spending time with them all. I was fairly social until late in our stay.

One of my highlights was finally getting to spend some time with a friend’s service dog. In the time that I’ve known Gitte, she’s always been on duty, and you never engage a service dog while on duty unless given explicit permission by the owner. Tonight, though, her owner arrived, said her hellos, and then took Gitte’s vest off, signifying that she was free to just be a dog for the visit. She’s very sweet and was thrilled to be able to engage all the people at the party, and it was a very happy thing to see her enjoying herself so much.

As for my friend, the crotchety old bastard who reads these blog posts, well, I could say a lot of derogatory things here about him – he’d actually expect that, honestly – but what I’m instead going to say is that in the years that I’ve known him, I would be hard-pressed to find a more honorable, wise individual, who goes out of his way to help others, especially when they themselves are helping others still. He’s got a wicked sense of humor but the heart of a Lion (quite literally – it’s a long story if you don’t already know) and I would be very hard-pressed to find anyone that I’d rather have mentor me through my beloved hobby. Love you, my friend. Happy birthday.

Partay!

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So today is the Fourth of July which is a really big holiday here in America in which we celebrate our forefathers’ desire for separation of church and state by spending our children’s inheritance and setting it on fire to hear the boom. This day is usually marked by rampant patriotism, copious amounts of alcohol (usually beer) and food, sales galore, and parties everywhere. It is that last item that I wish to have you focus on, as it’s what I’m going to be discussing here today, and I’d prefer that we were both on the same page, as it were.

People that have known me for a while know I’m not a big party person. I prefer small gatherings to larger ones, because larger groups are louder and it’s harder to work my way into conversation with many than it is for me to work my way into a smaller crowd.

But today, I not only went to a party where there were easily 20 people, but I was looking forward to it, and had a great time. I wasn’t anxious about the day, I didn’t feel left out like I tend to do in larger groups, and there were lots of people there that I knew as well as people I’d never met before. I socialized, I watched a game I’d never heard of called Timeline – interesting premise, you have cards that each represent an event at some point in history, and using a seed card, your job is to guess where in the timeline your cards will fall; the game starts out easy but gets more and more difficult as the timespans between cards narrows significantly – and I ate some great food. I got a chance to visit a while with many of my friends and the only reason I think we left when we did was because my wife wasn’t feeling very well, and both of us were quite tired. (I got up this morning about quarter of five to go to the restroom and suddenly felt very dizzy and lightheaded. I went to check my blood sugar and it was perfectly normal, so I checked my blood pressure on a whim and got back a reading of 99/63. I woke my wife to let her know what was going on and took it again a few minutes later, and this time it was 86/54. I normally have high blood pressure that’s controlled using six different medications, so something this low was alarming for me. I went to the ER and was diagnosed with dehydration and given a bag of saline for my trouble. Neither one of us managed to get back to sleep before the party.)

We said our farewells and excused ourselves, and headed home for a nap and to prepare for an evening of ignoring everyone that was illegally lighting fireworks in city limits.

A Celebration of What Once Was

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This afternoon and evening has been spent at the 13th anniversary celebration of City of Heroes in Paragon Chat, the XMPP server that’s set in the City of Heroes universe. My wife and I broadcast for two hours during the eight-hour show, and I was present for all eight hours.

The event was a great reminder of what a fantastic community City of Heroes created. Even over four years after sunset, dozens of people are still coming together to celebrate the game that we loved. People were sharing their favorite moments from the game, people were visiting with old friends and new, people were carrying on roleplay that still told the stories of their characters. There were costume and biography contests, there were trivia contests, there were badge races and other games. It was a full slate of activities for a game universe that went silent so unexpectedly back in 2012 and it was joyous to watch. It was my pleasure and my honor to have been able to participate in the event, however small my role was.

The organizers of the event really outdid themselves and everyone was having fun.

City of Heroes was the first MMORPG that I ever played, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, not so much because of the gameplay, but because of the absolutely phenomenal community that was built up around the game. They were and are like a second family to me, and they filled that role at a time when my first second family was far, far away. I will always be grateful for the time that I spent in City of Heroes and for the many, many real-world friendships that I’ve forged there.