Posts Tagged ‘Personal Story’

Adventure on the River

July 11, 2016

It seems that all of my adventures start with me getting up early but this week is no different. It seems that any true adventure starts with drive time and that usually means getting up early. This is often a dilemma for me since I am definitely not a morning person. However, an adventure often has enough allure to accomplish the necromancy it takes to get me out of bed before seven in the morning. So it was that on Thursday I got up and followed the smell of bacon downstairs to grab a little breakfast with my mom and her husband’s family. Breakfast is also part of the ancient magicks needed to get me up in the morning and I could already smell it as it made its way to the table. Of course, the food was there but nobody else was.

There is something important you should probably know about me. I am terrified of being late. I actually have nightmares about it and I feel intensely guilty if I am late. I show up at events so early I am often waiting in my car for the doors to open. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I get to airports long before most rational people on the offhand chance that something will go wrong or there will be traffic. So when I saw that the rest of my adventuring party was not up yet, I decided that we were not going to make it and the trip was doomed. Eventually, everybody made it down and ate and stalled and slowly gathered their belongings and said their goodbyes to loved ones. Meanwhile, I was waiting in the car like a mental patient, mentally willing them to get in a car so we could depart. I guess this is more my issue than theirs.  Thankfully, we made it on time.

Where did we make it to? We arrived at River Riders Headquarters in Harpers Ferry at 9 am. I checked us in and was informed that, even though we were to show up at nine, the safety lecture did not start until 9:40. We all got to relax a bit before gearing up for white water rafting down the Shenandoah River and onto the Potomac River. I really love the water so I was excited but still a little sleepy and anxious that we would not walk the thirty yards to the meeting place within forty minutes. Like I said, I am crazy. Of course, we made and watched a safety video and all safety videos are both cheery and also pretty grim.

We drove to the river and my mom and I climbed on a boat with some of her recently acquired grandchildren. Our guide was immediately laid back and cool and I liked that he was not doing anything to force us to have fun. All of the guides on the river encouraged a huge splash fight and people were being pulled or pushed off their boats everywhere. It was a lot of fun and a great way to get everyone in the spirit of the trip. That was great because I was still feeling a little tired from waking up and worrying about getting there on time. We started down the river in great spirits, talking and laughing. We followed our guide’s orders on when to paddle and worked hard to match paddling rhythms.

The rapids were not overly challenging. Some of them were fun little bumps and others were a rough ride where I nearly felt like I was going to fall out. Only one of us fell out the whole way and it was kind of a fluke that came from his unlucky position in the boat. We laughed and traded stories the whole time about how we had fared on each rapid. We learned a little more about the area as we floated down the line between Virginia and West Virginia. It was a lot of fun just to be in a positive head space.

At some point, our guide let slip that any guide who fell off his boat would have to buy beers for all of the other guides. These were known as “Swim Beers” and were to be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, our guide informed us that the guide who was manning our party’s other boat had tried to take our guide out earlier. We quickly pledged our allegiance and said we would help get that guide off of his boat. We talked the whole trip about when was the best time to do it. Two grandsons on the boat volunteered to actually do the deed but we kept getting thwarted just before an attempt. At the very end of the trip, we made a beeline for them and the two guys dragged the guy into the water. We all cheered and laughed that we had finally accomplished our goal.

We took the bus back to headquarters, tired and wet but also satisfied and happy. We ate a hero’s lunch at the Clarion Hotel up the hill and drove home to dry everything out and take a nap. It was a great time and it was filled with positivity. We could all use a little more of that.


Class Reunion/Free Comic Book Day 2016

May 9, 2016

So every year there is an event that I look forward to almost as much as Halloween and it’s Free Comic Book Day. Of course, this year Free Comic Book Day was on a day that was also scheduled for my Friends School class reunion. This was year fifteen so you know I was going to be there. In fact, since I attended the 10-year reunion, I promised myself that I would do whatever I could to keep attending reunions. A lot of these people were people I spent twelve years studying alongside and we grew to know each other whether we wanted to or not. Friends School is also an important place in my life as it was where I spent a lot of my most formative years. I knew I was in for a packed Saturday so sadly I had to skip out on tabletop gaming and going to see Captain America: Civil War with my friends.

I saddled up in the morning and somehow climbed out of bed even though excitement and nervousness had made it a little hard to sleep the night before. Also, I had very little sleep the day before but more on that Thursday. I hopped in my car and drove over to the school and I was surprised to find all of the parking in the world open to me. For some reason, I thought that everybody would be attending events all day like I was. I got my name tag and headed to the Math/Science building to meet up with my first event. I had signed up to go on a short birding trip mostly because of my relatives (Jack and Sandy). Everybody in the group was at least twenty years older than I was but it was still a lot of fun. The teacher and alumni who led it are bird experts and their interest was contagious. The coolest thing we saw was a Red-Tailed Hawk having a dogfight with an American Bald Eagle. I talked with another relative by marriage who (surprise!) is also a graduate of Friends. I also talked with a few other alumni who were very nice.

After that, it was time for a break from the school which was great because I was getting hungry too. I took off toward the Senator Theater and parked. I walked past Batman who was hanging outside of The Amazing Spiral and headed inside. The Amazing Spiral is my comic book shop when I’m in Baltimore because the staff is always knowledgeable and extremely courteous and welcoming. They always have a great selection of trade paperbacks and graphic novels which are usually what I spring for. I walked around and took the place in. There were people dressed as animals, superheroes and Disney characters and everybody had a smile on their face. Free Comic Book Day happens the first Saturday of May and is a nationwide holiday for geeks like me. I picked up my five comics and the second trade of Squirrel Girl. I also picked up Hawkeye #1 and an issue of Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. I then drove north and grabbed a Qdoba burrito and headed back to the school to eat and listen to Chris Hardwick interview Bruce Campbell. After, I read a little bit of my haul as I relaxed.

Having observed the holiday the best I could without seeing Captain America again, I shut my eyes for a little to conserve my energy. I got bored of that after a while and I decided to walk around the campus for a little while to check things out. The campus had changed a lot since I went to school there and I wanted to walk around the place to see the new stuff and drink in the nostalgia of the old stuff. I ended up doing a lot of walking since it is a huge campus. Eventually, it was time for my schedule tour and I really enjoyed seeing all of the new stuff inside of the buildings. The school is a really good one and it seems that it is even better than when I went there. It made me sad that Baltimore public schools did not get the same advantages and awoke my liberal/progressive spirit at the unfairness. Seeing all of the stuff that was the same as when I went to school there was like a boxer getting hit with body blow after body blow. I felt swept up in memories every step I took and it was a really powerful tour to take.

Finally, we got to the cocktail party and I was excited and nervous since I had yet to run into anybody from my graduating class. I walked around the party and ran into Mr. Watt but time ticked by and I still had not seen anybody from my class. I thought for a moment that they had all blown off the event in favor of starting our private party earlier. Finally, I ran into one classmate and slowly that became four and then we were all together. Talking to them was like no time had passed but also felt like a million miles away from high school. High School really sucked and by the end of twelve years of being together, I never wanted to see my classmates again. However, as time has gone by it’s easier to remember all of the good times and forgive all of the stupid mistakes we each made. These people are all pretty good people and it was really a joy to have great conversations with them. We ended the night at Cosima’s at Mill No. 1 which was a little fancier than the places I like but it was a nice atmosphere to share with the handful of classmates who decided to show. I had a great time and I can’t wait until next time. It’s going to be a long five years.

Oh Canada

April 18, 2016

It is time for another awkward tale from my college years where weird things happened because I was still extremely introverted and I was also very sleep deprived. I went to class all day, rehearsed at night and then stayed up into the early morning so that I had recreation time. I got along pretty well with everybody even though I was strange and I was also one of the few guys in my major. I really liked the people I worked with but since I was guarded and private, most of them knew very little about me. This led to one of my favorite moments in college history.

Now, as I mentioned on Saturday, I went to college with every intention of becoming a stage manager. I had been an assistant stage manager and a production assistant and I liked the responsibility. Very quickly, though, I heard the siren call of design. I felt at home in design classes and I was friendly with a lot of designers who were a little rougher and tougher than my put together, female compatriots. I got along with them too, don’t get me wrong but more and more I remember feeling better in the shops than in the office.

I started to minor in sound design. At first, it was just for fun. The studio was a fun place to hang out during the day between classes as it was both pretty chill and very interesting. We worked under a teacher who used to be a rock and roll roadie for bands like Steely Dan and AC/DC. He was by far the coolest teacher I ever had which was saying something because I actually had a lot of cool teachers. Before I started to actually sound design my own shows, I assisted quite a few people. We were the black sheep and the red-headed stepchildren of the design family all put together. We were practically unofficial but appreciated and we tried to do a lot more than we were authorized some of the time.

So I remember doing a little assisting on a show called Betty’s Summer Vacation, a show that warped my little brain and has stuck with me all these years. Anyway, the designer was a good friend of mine at the time and he had the idea of doing a vocal effect using wireless microphones. We were a Meisner school and we were not allowed to use microphones unless it was for a specific effect since actors were supposed to be able to project. So I get handed three wireless mics and I am told to go out on the catwalk and help test them out. Sure, hand the shy guy microphones and make him the center of attention as the crew worked around us.

So I started to say “Check” over and over and that quickly got old as we were adjusting the sound. So somehow I must have had some sort of breakthrough or maybe it was a psychotic break. I decided the best way to continue to test the microphones was to sing. Although, now that I think about it maybe somebody I was friends with shouted out the suggestion. So the first song that came to mind was our national anthem. I got a few lines into the Star-Spangled Banner until I couldn’t remember anymore. Instead, I started to sing Oh Canada which is the Canadian national anthem. Somehow, I remembered all the words and sang until I was told the microphones were well-tested.

Afterward, for over a week people thought I was Canadian. That was the rumor going around. I was both amused and very flabbergasted. I thought I had been clear how proud I was of my Baltimore heritage. The fact that I knew all the words to Oh Canada and not The Star-Spangled Banner was used as evidence that I was Canadian. Not that I would mind being Canadian. A lot of cool people are Canadian. I mean Chris Jericho and Ryan Reynolds alone is pretty awesome. However, the truth of it is that Oh Canada was just easier to sing for one simple reason. The South Park movie. For two years I had listened a lot to the South Park soundtrack which included the track where Geddy Lee, Terrance and Phillip sang the Canadian national anthem. It was probably stuck in my head that day. It illustrated how distant I still was from some of the people I was friends with.

What Does it Mean!?

February 15, 2016

I was thinking recently about my past. Specifically I was thinking about my teenage years which is usually a bad sign. People work pretty hard to forget their teenage years because they are horrible. Well, I actually can’t speak for everyone. My teenage years were pretty awful. They were the years where my introversion hurt me the most just as my creativity was revving up into overdrive. Those two things were intensified by my emotions and I started to believe everybody was personally rejecting me at every turn. Of course there were people actually trying to hurt me and others but looking back it’s harder to tell which is which.

All of that aside, let me get a little more specific. I was thinking about all of the weird things I did as an artsy teenager that make no sense now. I had a reason back then but now they seem a little silly. All of these things were just begging for a reaction or questions on what they meant. Keep in mind that I have never really talked about this before but maybe I can exorcise a little embarrassment by exploring a few interesting moments.

The Altar of Bad Luck

I spent a lot of my time in my teenage years hanging around the theater. I made the leap from high school theater to the charm and excitement of community theater. I fell headlong into the world of the theater and accepted and absorbed all of the myths and ritual pretty much immediately. This was the time period that I believed in ghosts and wholeheartedly feared the supernatural. One of the theater traditions I was fascinated by was the tradition of wishing somebody to “Break a Leg!” instead of “Good Luck!”. Wishing somebody bad luck mysteriously had the opposite effect within the walls of a theater. So, I internalized that and probably took it in a weird direction. Around that time South Park had become a thing. Kenny McCormick was a character who had the bad luck of being killed in every episode. I sought to harness this bad luck by putting a little doll of him on top of my sound equipment. Not only that, but I surrounded Kenny with tails up pennies. I wanted concentrated bad luck to harvest and turn into good luck. Nobody ever asked me about it.

The Black Coat

I am not even sure where I got the idea for this one. During and before my teen years there was a lot of fiction that came out that featured characters in a long black coat or cloak. Some of them were good guys but a lot of them were bad guys. Of course, it was the late nineties so bad guys were cool and tough and strong. As a geek these were the things I wanted to be but I was not. Well, you could debate that I was “cool” because I did my own thing but I wasn’t popular. Still, when given the choice of what coat to buy, I chose the black coat that went nearly to my knees. It wasn’t canvas or some other cool fabric and was in fact just a thin winter coat made mostly of synthetic materials.

Over time I realized that long coats had a ton of pockets and my coat regularly weighed a ton because I packed it full of books, tools, snacks and drinks. Unfortunately, long black coats started to get a bad rap after the Columbine tragedy and many people stopped wearing them. I refused to let my habit get taken away from me and I wore mine well into college. I heard later that several people incorrectly feared me because of the Columbine connection and my introverted nature. Of course, I deeply regret that and I was really embarrassed when I found out.

The Earth Emblem

I initially made fun of anime when I found about it in my freshman year of high school. A friend of mine had discovered it through trips back to his ancestral Korea and I enjoyed making fun of it a little bit. Then Funimation teamed up with Cartoon Network to introduce people to Dragonball Z and I actually liked something I had previously made fun of. Several anime shows were introduced on the network because the ratings must have been great. I loved the dubbed versions they showed because they made the material more accessible to an American like me. Finally, they released Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network and I didn’t know what to think.

At first glance it was so girly but I watched it and I fell in love with the characters, plot and animation. As a life long fan of superheroes, I loved the concept of magical girls and I wanted to know all about Serena and the Sailor Scouts. I taped the show on VHS to watch alone later and I really loved it. I redesigned and modernized the show several times in probably my first attempts at fanfiction. I loved that all the scouts had devices that helped them transform and use their powers. However, the only male hero Tuxedo Mask didn’t seem to have a device. In my first of two cosplay attempts to date I created a little Earth symbol over a clip-on safety light and carried around for a long time before it went through the laundry.


January 20, 2015

I had a birthday recently.  My birthday is December 29 so it falls between Christmas and New Years Eve/Day.  You have probably heard people talk about how much that sucks.  It does or rather it did.  Lately I don’t really like making a big deal about my birthday.  It’s not about getting older that bothers me but more the belief that I don’t think it’s worth people getting excited about.  I’m just little ol’ me.  I like the occasional happy birthday wish in person or on facebook but other than that I feel embarassed to celebrate too much.  It’s kind of a situation where I want to have my cake but not make the cake into a spectacle while I eat it.
There is a family tradition of not celebrating my birthday on the 29th which developed from the aforementioned bad timing of my birthday.  You see, I never really suffered from having my birthday so close to Christmas.  At least, it never felt like I suffered from receiving less presents.  My family always did a good job of delineating Christmas and birthday presents.  I never felt cheated out of any presents because my family was always very generous and I never really wanted too much.
The part that sucked is that when I was little, I wanted to celebrate my birthday with my firends.  On December 29, all of us children were still on winter break from school and a lot of the time my friends were either out of town or too busy with their family and could not attend any extra parties.  It was pretty frustrating having my birthday come around and not have a party.  Birthday parties were the only social events we had as kids.  Eventually we figured out that we could just have my birthday party in April or May before school ended.
I was remembering a pretty bad memory lately that did happen on or around my birthday.  It was the depths of December after a particularly bad snowstorm.  We had actually decided to do a party for me during winter break and miraculously we pretty much got the whole crew on board.  It was important to me that my best friends Arthur and Farris were there and it was equally important that my friend James (or he had another name. I forget.) from pre-school was there.
My mother got her station wagon (they were all the rage at the time) and agreed to pick all of my friends up and ferry us to the Sports.  Sports was the coolest place ever because it had a massive arcade, batting cages and miniature golf.  It had the X-Men stand-up arcade game (4 players!) based on the awesome Pryde of the X-Men animated feature.  It also had the Punisher stand-up which I haven’t seen anywhere else before or since.
Now, James didn’t go to my school so I didn’t see him as much so we had some catching up to do.  I was happy to comply but this started drama with Farris who wanted to know who the hell this other guy was who was pulling me away from my school friends.  I tried my best to appease both sides and felt kind of bad about it.  Then my mom got stuck in what must have been four inches of snow going uphill.  We all had to get out and push and I thought to myself what a crappy birthday this was turning out to be.
In the end we got cups of tokens for the arcade, ate pizza and played mini golf and everyone mostly got along fine.  The birthday party turned out great but in retrospect it was probably yet another reason we stopped celebrating my birthday in winter.  James (or whatever) and I eventually drifted apart and I spent more time with my school friends with much less drama.  It may not have been a perfect birthday but it was one of the only ones I can remember from back then.

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