Dire, Dire Docks


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My generation is nostalgic.

Look around. Packaged memories are everywhere.

They sell us millennium falcons that open beers and t-shirts with our favorite cartoon characters. N64 video game soundtracks have over a million views on youtube. The most common comment is this simple lament: “getting old sucks.”

We’re not old, not yet, but we feel old.

We’ve lived a thousand lives.

I personally have saved a princess form a castle. I’ve battled across the beaches of Normandy and up into Hitler’s evil castle. I’ve even slain a mecha-hitler or two.

I’ve soared through pink and orange cloud kingdoms on the purple wings of a dragon. I’ve explored shipwrecks, swimming deep underwater to collect the blue coins that would recharge my air. I’ve raided temples. I’ve piloted mighty robots. I’ve soared off into the heavens, watched the Galactic Empire’s downfall, hopped from platform to platform on Venus and partied all night long with the kindly Ewoks.

I’ve seen and watched and played and read more than a medieval peasant could ever even dream about.

Such sights I’ve seen. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

I’ve seen it all. We’ve seen it.

We’ve spent our lives living in worlds within worlds.

We grew up on the rug in front of the TV, shooting tortoise shells at cars. We watched John Goodman be an animated dinosaur in New York. We saw what happens when you cross the streams, or when let Ms. Frizzle drive you somewhere, or when you dance with the Goblin King.

More than anything, I think that’s what makes us Nostalgic.

We did so much without doing anything at all.

We got to be kids.

Just kids.

And as an adult, as I sit here at a cheap card table, my right molar hurting from a cavity, I look back on my life and I can see it.

You can see it too, if you just turn around.

There it is, stretching out behind you.

A path.

But it isn’t straight.

It isn’t linear like we thought it was going to be from all the books and movies and games. It’s a mess.

It weaves up and down, around boulders and over streams. There’s some heavy woods, some blinding deserts. Ice flows crack together as the frigid water sloshes across their frictionless surfaces, but the path persists.

It meanders, much like this post.

You track it right up to your feet.

You find yourself here, and now.

It’s night.

Is this it?

It could be.

What was it all for? All this wandering, all the mountains and streams and deserts and ice. What was it all for?

And you think back, back to those days at the dire, dire docks. Collecting coins and stars was your only motivation.

Shrouded in a blue glow, a warm blanket, your mouth agape. It’s not just wonder. It’s not your brain shutting off.

It’s getting lost in something else. It’s that brief moment where you forget that you’re you. You’re Mario the plumber exploring a magic castle. You’re a pokemon explorer snapping pictures of wild monsters. You’re James Bond, armed with his trust pp7 and a license to kill.

You’re a kid living in a land of pure imagination.

The games and movies didn’t matter. Not really

It could have been anything.

But they were our anything.

And so I’v sitting here at this cheap card table. I lean back in my even cheaper chair and I pour a glass of scotch and I think. I think about the old days. About collecting oranges from the trees at twilight. About making water balloons with sister. About sailing playmobile ships across our tiny pool.

There was always a storm. The plastic vessels were nigh unsinkable.

I think about those dire, dire docks, and I open youtube and I search “underwater song super mario 64” and I’m greeted by 154,000 friends who have all come to the same place.

They’re all here to remember.

To remember a time when life was about getting coins.

And swimming around pirate ships.

And for a little bit.

Just for a little bit.

We’re someone else.

All of us.

We’re nobody.

And we float in that blissful dream, carried down the currents to the dire, dire docks.

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on gold, rainbows and other heavy things


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I awoke on the morning of the second St. Patrick’s day I did’t care about feeling less than rested. I played video games for three hours after losing Trivia the night before. I stayed up until one in the morning. That’s late for me.

I stayed up until St. Patrick’s day.

As we were leaving, the quiz master told us that St. Patrick’s day started in two hours and that happy hour lasted until midnight. I looked around. The bar was quickly filling up with people I don’t want to be around. People who call it “going out” rather than “I want beer.” People who wear a lot of makeup or product in their hair. People who wear tight shirts to show off their muscles. The party crowd.

They were loud and obnoxious, sort of like howler monkeys that had been drinking.

Seth Green was there, too. He wore a millennium falcon T-shirt and played pool with some of his friends. The pool table is exactly in the middle of the seating area, so we all had to watch him while we played trivia. If he came to the valley seeking anonymity, he picked the wrong bar.

But that’s besides the point.

The party crowd was there and I drove myself and I was monstrously broke so I decided not to drink anymore.

So I left.

That night… I just had a hard time caring about St. Patrick’s day.

When I was a kid I would have to wear green or people would pinch me. It got to the point, probably in middle school or later, where no one even really enjoyed the pinching anymore. It was just a thing that you do, like eating a turkey or thanksgiving or stoning a woman to death when she doesn’t marry her rapist. We didn’t necessarily like pinching the same kids (for it was always the same forgetful fools who didn’t wear green) but it had to be done. If not us, then who?

In college, St. Patrick’s day was fun, because drinking was new and exciting and I had a favorite bar r. It was called the J. Clyde, and it had over 50 craft beer on tap. We brought my friend’s roommate there once. He was a hulking defensive lineman on the football team and when he ordered a bud light they laughed at him.

We got a beer for him before he began any manual tracheotomies with nothing but his bare hands and blinding, white rage.

St. Patrick’s Day in grad school was great because the first one was in London. We stood out in the rain in Trafalgar and bought Guinness for ten pounds an eight ounce cup. No one had any fun except me.

But here in LA…

I use Irish Spring soap because I like Irish things.

Wait, that’s not true. It’s not Irish.

I use Irish springs because I like things that make me think about Ireland, a place I’ve never been but know everything about.

Wait, that’s not true either.I know nothing about Ireland, really.

I use Irish Springs because it’s cheap. You can get twelve bars for like four dollars, even in LA.

Every now and then your skin needs something less abrasive, though. So a few weeks ago I went to Target to buy some nice soap.

They had a whole aisle for soap. A two whole rows for lotion. A fucking section for shampoo.

I just wanted less itchy soap. But here was shea butter. Over there was a soap that would apparently make me smell like a wolf. This one would make me smell like the islands of Fiji. Red, black ,blue, green and every color in between was here. Bottles and bars and everything.

It was too much and don’t even get me started on the fucking shampoo.

I just bought some more Irish Springs because it’s cheap and familiar.

The Los Angeles bar scene is like that. Every god damn street corner has the best St. Patrick’s day celebration you’ve ever heard of. They all have better deals than everyone else. They’re everywhere.

That’s not why I’m less enthusiastic than normal this year, though.

It’s mostly because I work until 11 tonight, and then do it again tomorrow.

No… not quite.

It’s because I’m working on three different writing projects at once right now, and they all actually seem to be going somewhere.

No? Maybe.

No. I think what killed it for me was the quiz master.

I told my friend later that night that the thing about famous people is that you’re used to staring at them. You stare at them on the internet, on movie and TV screens, on billboards and posters. All you do is stare at them. You’re conditioned to do it, not in an insidious way, but simply because it’s what you do.

So I was staring at Seth Green when the the quiz master said St. Patrick’s day started in two hours. He was sitting right behind Seth. I had a good view of him. He had a smile on his face and held his arms out wide for the inevitable cheer from the party crowd.

He had a smile on his face but his eyes…

His eyes were dead.

His eyes were dead and the way he said those words, that familiar phrase he must have said a dozen times before, the tone was so practiced and rehearsed, so buried in years of the same thing and same old whatever that it sounded like a cry for help.

He said some joke and everyone laughed, but I just stared at him. I know the quiz master. He’s from Michigan. He’s thirty and he works as a quiz master for his only job and there’s a sadness behind his eyes when he tells party goers that there will be an even bigger party tomorrow night because, frankly, I don’t think he cares, even though he’s Irish.

Hell, if the bar doesn’t care…

So I woke up on the second St. Patrick’s day in a row I didn’t care about and I went downstairs and I got the coffee going and I ate a cookie I made the night before and I thought about what I would make for breakfast. I decided on toast with avocado.

Then I thought about the coming night.

I decided that I’ll just listen to the Cranberries and have a little whiskey. It’s scotch, but I don’t think the spirits will care too much.

The spirits I’m referring to are leprechauns… or maybe the things in my liquor cabinet.

So let’s talk about rainbows.

They aren’t real, you know. Just light refracted through rain drops. There’s no reason to get excited about them, except…

Except there’s something magic about the mundane being made different for no reason. Where once was grey is now color.

There’s one now.

Watch it through the rain-streaked window in your mom’s suburban (it’s the early 2000’s so suburbans are still cool). See how it travels parallel to the car, only not quite as fast.

Touch the glass. You can almost feel it, can’t you?

“Rainbow!” You shout, and your Mom and Dad and Sister turn and look for it like it’s going to save the world.

You could have caused a wreck but fuck it, there’s a rainbow.

“I see it! There it is!” They shout, and you know their excitement is genuine.

Mom turns her eyes back to the road, but you just stare at it and wonder about the future.

Something itches at the back of your skull and you wonder if, not the first time, there’s a pot of gold at the end.

I mean, come on, you know it’s just light refraction in water drops, right? It’s just refracted light and the cranberries are on the radio and your driving home and the world has that clean scent after rain and there’s a rainbow and you know it’s just light but maybe…

Maybe the legends are true. Maybe it’s different this time.

And you know what?

It’s the maybe that’s the best part.

It’s better than going out and finding that gold.

It’s probably better than if there was even any gold there at all.

So let’s talk about St. Patrick’s day.

Do I like St. Patrick’s day?

Yeah, I like St. Patrick’s day.

I’m just not going out this year because I don’t need to because I know that’s not the best part of the rainbow.

Maybe it is for you, but it’s not for me.

So here’s what I’ll do:

I’ll put on the cranberries and sit back in my chair and sip on some Glenlivet and think about a cold London day when I stood in the rain, or about playing beer pong outside in Tallahassee right after a storm, or about pinching that one girl more than anyone else because you hope maybe this time she’ll turn around and kiss you.

It doesn’t work like that, by the way.

And that’ll be enough St. Patrick’s day for me.

Oh, and here’s an old post about leprechauns I wrote in London.

Cheers!

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