Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

This is Me in ’83 – Seventh Grade

In the fall of 1983, I started seventh grade at Lake Middle School.

8384yearbook

Technically, this yearbook itself is from 1984, since we received them toward the end of the school year. However, since I did pretty much nothing in the way of extracurricular activities, I can guarantee that half the pictures of me in this book are from the beginning of the school year.

I can make this promise because I am only in two pictures. Here’s the first – my official seventh-grade portrait, as it appeared on page 50. Row 6, first column, surrounded by a group of fellow B-name kids that wouldn’t change much over my entire 12 years at Lake. (This guy’s picture is in row 5, column two.)

7thGradeFall

Why yes, those are plastic-rimmed prescription glasses that darkened in sunlight – and apparently, under certain bright indoor conditions as well – because after all, it was August, 1983. And according to my extensive television research, every girl was crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

Digression to the future: That seventh-grade me still regularly read his Fiend Folio – with its unforgettable image of Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders –

LolthFiendFolio

– and other Dungeons & Dragons materials, even if he never actually learned to play. Those memories add another level of enjoyment to this picture, taken almost exactly 30 years later at Gen Con:

MeAtGenCon

Back to the past, then:

My only other appearance in the yearbook is in the photo below.

7thgradeband

I’m thinking I’m second row, third or fourth chair clarinet. My face is hidden, but I’m pretty sure that’s my unruly hair within the red circle:

ImWithTheBand

Seventh grade at Lake Middle School was also notable in that thanks to a shift in student distribution (the middle school had housed grades 6-8 the year before, but handled grades 7-9 in 1983-84) my classmates and I got to be the youngest class in the building for a second consecutive year. Yay.

August 31, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, geek, Ohio | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gen Con 2013: Part Five – Sunday, Aug. 18

(Oh, hey – Here’s a picture I forgot to post from Saturday the 17th:

– those structures? They’re all made of gaming cards. Yeah.)

Eight a.m. Sunday arrived all too quickly, since I’d just gone to bed five hours earlier. No, I did not drag myself down to the treadmill. I got up, showered, had breakfast, and hauled all my stuff – packed into one suitcase and one messenger bag – down to the hotel lobby. They let me check my suitcase with the concierge, since I wasn’t going to be leaving until mid-afternoon, but check-out time was 11 a.m., at which time I would be re-immersed in True Dungeon.

Dave and I met up around 9:30 and went into Hall B early so we could claim our characters and maybe help equip other players as they arrived.

This time through, we chose the combat-oriented storyline – again, there are more details in our GeekDad post on the True Dungeon experience. Different from Friday night’s puzzle-focused run – not just for that, but also because we were with eight people we’d never met – but the two hours flew by again. (Although if I do True Dungeon again, from here on out, I think I’ll stick with the puzzle quests.)

That was my last game of Gen Con 2013.

It was just past noon when we got out – yes, already afternoon on the last day of the convention, where everything starts to feel washed out by a sense of closing time and a bit of sadness, even though it’s hardly mid-day. Dave and I met up with Jonathan, who was heading back to the airport, and the three of us parted ways.

Texting Kato and Wendy, I found out they were close by, so I met up with them, and we made arrangements for gathering in a couple hours for the drive home.  I think they were going to head out to the food trucks for some lunch, but I had just eaten another of my trusty peanut butter sandwiches, so I decided to go to the exhibit hall and pick up some T-shirts for Jenn and Kelsey and me. (For Jenn, a design with the TARDIS and the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey quote. For Kels, John Kovalic’s CthulWho. And for me, one of these:

I spent awhile then just strolling the corridors and the exhibit hall, taking in one more time all the things that I love about these conventions.

Don’t blink, indeed. Where had the previous four days gone? How could it be over already?

Here’s my excerpt of the collective post Jonathan and Dave and I wrote for GeekDad afterward:

My short answer to “How was Gen Con?” can be condensed to four words: Physically exhausting, mentally invigorating.

I’ve been to four Star Wars Celebrations and the inaugural PAX East, so I’m familiar with the grin-inducing atmosphere and energy of large geek conventions, and the thrill of being in a crowd of people who share your excitement.

What I was unprepared for, though, was the different feel of Gen Con. I think I realized it somewhere around Saturday morning, when, despite the late nights, early mornings, and the amount of walking, standing, and hauling around a messenger bag, I was really energized.

I think it came down to this: Generally, the big conventions I’ve attended have offered tons of cool things to see and hear — panels or Q&A sessions featuring producers and model-builders and actors; presentations on toy prototypes or special effects; interviews and sneak peeks and art exhibits. And these things have been amazing and fun and mind-blowing, and I love them.

But while you can find similar offerings at Gen Con, the overall vibe of the place was one not of seeing and hearing, but of doing. People packing the exhibit hall not just to look and shop and get autographs, but to learn new games or play updated versions of old favorites, and share their discoveries with both friends and total strangers. Rows and rows and rows of occupied tables in the open gaming hall. The corridors still lined with dozens of people long after dark, sitting on the floors and just gaming together.

I played 15 games during Gen Con, 12 of which were completely new to me. They included everything from stacking/coordination games to memory-based challenges to deck-builders and role-playing games. And there’s not a doubt in my mind that this near-constant shifting of games and fellow players and strategies and goals played a big part in not just keeping me going, but eager to do more.

Wendy and Kato picked me up outside my hotel around 3 p.m. The drive home was uneventful, and I was glad for the chance to unwind and talk about the weekend with them. (And as we recalled Friday night’s True Dungeon run, Wendy totally solved the final puzzle which had doomed our party.)

So: A long weekend packed with unforgettable, enriching experiences shared with friends old and new?

No bigger win than that.

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gen Con 2013: Part Four – Saturday, Aug. 17

Woke up early enough to make myself go do another treadmill run. Only had enough in the tank for two miles, so I at least pushed myself and came in at under eight minutes per mile – barely.

Our first day at Gen Con, Dave had said something to the effect of, “We gotta play some D&D this weekend.”

We’d planned to line up with Kato at 9 a.m. to try and get a 10 a.m. session of Confrontation at Candlekeep, but just after eight, during another hearty hotel breakfast (seriously: I really enjoyed the morning menu), I got a text from Dave: “Just got over here. Line is out the door, erm, gate already.”

I got there a few minutes later, and Kato was there by about 8:45. I think we did wind up sitting down at our table to play a little more than an hour later.

I chose the pre-generated dwarf fighter as my character, since it’s a role I had no experience playing.

We had a great DM – Erica King – guiding our adventure, and I really enjoyed myself. (I don’t have enough comparative multi-edition experience to offer a good opinion on the D&D Next play. I know I had fun.) The only downside was that our party, through some odd quirk of the playtest logistics, didn’t actually get to do battle with the final monster. Erica did a great job of thinking on her feet and throwing new enemies at us so we weren’t just sitting there waiting. Still, again – FUN.

And hey: Sweet new free set of dice from Wizards of the Coast!

These are all my free dice from Gen Con – the blue and white set is from Wizards, the purple one was a Crystal Caste giveaway, and the green one was from ordering off the Pathfinder menu at Scotty’s Brewhouse, which is where Kato and Wendy and I went for lunch. (Love the effort that went into creating the art and copy for this menu. The descriptions are fun and amazing. And if you’re interested, we split an order of Goblin Ears, and I had a Squealy Nord.)

After lunch, I met up with Dave at the convention center again, then tried to catch Jim Hines for his 3 p.m. book signing. Then I double-checked the schedule and saw that it had been an 11 a.m. signing, and I’d gotten my days confused. Dang.

So Dave & I stopped by the Steve Jackson Games booth, where both Steve Jackson himself and John Kovalic happened to be sitting and signing. And I’d brought along my much-loved copy of Munchkin Bites for just such an occasion:

The third signature there is Andrew Hackard. Kelsey and I met Andrew at Penguicon – where he taught us how to play Munchkin – in 2009, and I’d been looking forward to catching up with him at Gen Con. The SJ Games booth was really busy, of course, but we got to chat for a couple minutes. Then he looked at his watch and said, “Hey: You should throw your name in the drawing for dinner at the Munchkin Tavern tonight – I’m hosting.” I filled out an entry card, and then Dave and I went to meet up with Jonathan.

The three of us played Paizo’s demo of its Pathfinder Card Game. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but in retrospect, I’d like to see how a full game plays out, since it’s an interesting combination of role-playing rules and deck-building strategy.

Not long after, the three of us headed off in different directions, and then I got a text from an unknown number: I’d landed one of the Munchkin Tavern dinner seats!

Via text, Kato suggested that we could fill the time until I headed to dinner with a game of Lords of Waterdeepso Dave and I met him in one of his hotel common areas. I’d never played the game, but I liked it from the start. Easy to learn and a fun theme. Also, I won. (Though with an asterisk – we cut the game short by a couple rounds at 6:50 so I could head over to dinner.)

Dinner at the Munchkin Tavern was a blast. Six of us Munchkin / SJGames fans and Andrew, just geeking out for hours, and enjoying some seriously excellent food and drink. At one point, with his actual Red Pen of Doom, Andrew began creating custom (and Munchkin-legal!) “Go Up A Level” cards. As he’s doing this, he looks at me and says, “Is it ‘E-L-S-E-Y?” Realizing he was personalizing a card for my daughter, I said, “Yep. And you’re awesome.”

His response was to grin and say, “You haven’t seen the card yet.”

It reads, “Beat Dad – Again. Go Up A Level. KELSEY ONLY.”

“Hackaaaaaaaaaaaaard!” (No, seriously: Awesome.)

It was past 10 p.m. when we all left, and the time had flown.

Even though Dave and I were doing another True Dungeon run at 10 a.m., it was the last night of Gen Con, so I wanted to keep riding the adrenaline. “Still up?” I texted Kato.

About 20 minutes later, I got a response: He was heading down to the lobby to meet a couple friends for another Lords of Waterdeep game, and invited me over.

We set up at a table in the bar with Kato’s buddies, who were ordering a late dinner. After they ate, we ordered some drinks and got the game going.

After a bit, a guy came over and said something along the lines of “Hey, I don’t mean to interrupt your game, but…are you having fun?”

And that’s how we met Lords of Waterdeep designer Rodney Thompson. Fantastic!

It was almost 2 a.m. by the time we wrapped things up, and even though I knew it was going to be hard getting up at eight o’clock, I kept thinking, “Yep. This is how you do the last night of a con.”

So I’m heading back to the room, walking east on Maryland Avenue, and there are still a fair amount of people out and about. And I’m thinking about how I’m going to have to pack all my stuff in the morning before heading over to True Dungeon, because checkout time is 11 a.m., and that means getting up even earlier than I’d planned, because at this hour, I can’t pack when I get back to the room without waking up Jonathan, and –

– and there’s Jonathan, standing on the next street corner talking with someone, because he has also spent the last night of Gen Con gaming into the early hours of Sunday. We see each other and crack up with the absurdity of being up this late playing games and having so much fun.

Back at the hotel, I pack up everything I can, and fall asleep around 3 a.m.

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gen Con 2013: Part Three – Friday, Aug. 16

Most days, my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. “Sleeping in” is typically anything past 7 a.m.

So, exhausted as I’d been the night before, I wasn’t surprised to wake up just after seven Friday morning. Knowing that I had fallen behind on my running, and not wanting to lose too many miles, I went down to the hotel’s fitness center and did 3.5 miles on the treadmill. On the way back to the room, I ran into Jonathan as he was heading down for breakfast, showered, and headed down for my own meal.

I seem to think we met up with Dave at the convention center – he was staying closer than we were – and we dove into another day’s gaming.

We passed a good chunk of the morning having fun learning and playing complete games (not just demos) of Dread Curse and A Touch of Evil: Dark Gothic at their company booths.

And oh, hey: Giant Balloon Cthulhu.

Jonathan had an appointment to keep (I think), so Dave offered to teach me Dungeon Command, which he had brought with him. I had actually planned to attend a panel on game writing, but I was really caught up in playing and learning all these new games, so I ate the peanut butter sandwich I’d made – Yes, I did, in fact, bring a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter to keep in the hotel room so we could make sandwiches for during the day. Convention Survival Essential. – skipped the panel, and tried my best to rally an undead army to victory.

At some point, Dave and I also played a quick demo of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. Seemed neat and fun, but the demo was awfully short, and nobody got blasted into space dust.

I also thought I’d pop over to Jim Hines‘ mid-afternoon appearance in the authors’ alley so I could say hi and get my copy of Codex Born signed, but I got there about 15 minutes before his shift was due to end, and there was at least a half-hour line – Go Jim! (He also had one more signing scheduled, so I wasn’t stressed about it.)

Dave and I decided to take a break, then grab dinner nearby before our scheduled True Dungeon run at 7 p.m. I walked back to my hotel to pick up the bag of True Dungeon tokens that Jonathan had been given, and I snagged a 15-minute snooze while I was there.

After supper, we met up with Jonathan, Kato & Wendy outside the True Dungeon hall, and for the next couple hours, we fled and fought werewolves and worked our way through a wilderness of puzzling obstacles. I wrote a detailed piece on our True Dungeon experience for GeekDad, but the short version is that we had a lot of fun.

Stopped by the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons area for a few minutes afterward to say hello to Lolth –

– then walked solo over to check out the Munchkin Tavern and have a beer. Not long after I arrived, Kato and Wendy decided to come over, too. It was a nice night, and we sat out on the deck for awhile just enjoying the surroundings and the company. Picked up a set of pint glasses, which, naturally, come with in-game rules for use during Munchkin.

Before leaving, we met  John Kovalic, who was sitting at a table inside – bonus points to Wendy for checking Twitter and noticing that he mentioned being at the Tavern. He’s been a Friend of GeekDad for awhile, but this was the first time our paths crossed. Exceptionally nice guy.

We left after 11 p.m., and I headed back to my hotel, since Kato and Dave and I were planning to be in line early Saturday for one of the D&D Next playtest sessions. Jonathan was still in the hall gaming close to midnight.

This was one of the coolest things about Gen Con: The day ended (or didn’t) when you wanted it to. There were still hundreds of people in the convention center hallways and open gaming areas when I was walking past. I don’t know if the center itself stayed open 24 hours, but even if it didn’t, and you wanted to game all night long, there were possibilities everywhere  you looked: Late-night restaurants, hotel lobbies and bars and common areas.

Also making for an interesting downtown scene was that weekend’s motorcycle racing event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lots of bikers – both of the chrome-and-custom crowd and the racing bike enthusiasts – cruising around and gathering on a few blocks closed off for the occasion. (One of which was right outside our hotel. From six stories up, though, the noise didn’t bother me.) Between the bikers and the game geeks and the costumers, there was some top-notch people-watching to be enjoyed.

Missed parts one and two of my Gen Con 2013 recollections? Here: Part One – Getting There; Part Two – Thursday, August 15.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gen Con 2013: Part Two – Thursday, Aug. 15

(In which John, having reached Indianapolis for Gen Con, unsurprisingly goes to Gen Con.)

Finishing up breakfast with Jonathan and Dave just after 8 a.m., it felt like it should have been much later in the day, since I’d been up most of the night. But I was ready to get The Best Four Days in Gaming under way.

Jonathan and I checked our luggage – we couldn’t check into the hotel until Thursday afternoon – and after  short walk to the Indiana Convention Center later, we had checked into the press room made our way to the main exhibit hall.

Dave & Jonathan are really enthusiastic gamers, and it was fun seeing the two of them walk into this massive space packed with games… and practically freeze with overload. 

Before playing anything, I made sure to pick up my first free swag of the con – this sweet DungeonMorph die:

So, here’s what I remember playing that morning:

Roll For It! – Hey! I won the first GeekDad-played game of Gen Con 2013! (Thanks to a bit of luck – it’s a dice game, after all – and, I’d like to think, some lessons learned from playing too much Tali.)

Walk the Plank – I won this one, too, thus racking up two-thirds of my gaming victories that weekend in the first hour or so.

WeyKick – Jonathan’s Gen Con photo set at GeekDad includes  a picture of Dave and me playing this tabletop soccer game.

Tok Tok Woodman – Here’s another Jonathan Liu GeekDad photo.

Ooga Booga – Silly, silly fun.

Jonathan and Dave wanted to check out Robinson Crusoe – Jonathan included his thoughts on the game in his GeekDad gaming round-up) so I went along and watched for awhile, thinking ahead to lunch and a 1 p.m. appointment in Gamma World.

I was starting to take damage from the lack of sleep, so I excused myself from the Crusoe game table and headed out to find the food trucks that Kato & Wendy had mentioned were nearby.

A couple observations on post-2005 changes to the Indiana Convention Center:

  1. The additional convention space that now occupies what used to be the RCA Dome was most welcome, and made a huge difference in the crowds and traffic compared to Star Wars Celebration III. While there were occasional bottlenecks in spots, for the most part, walking around Gen Con, I spent very little time in those zombie-shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder packs that seemed to fill the main SWC3 corridors.
  2. The rise of the food truck industry has done wonders. One of my huge gripes about conventions is the lack of access to food other than the unremarkable and overpriced offerings within convention centers themselves. While I remember the Indy convention center having decent – if not quick – dining options within walking distance, there was nothing in 2005 to compare to the couple dozen food trucks that lined the neighboring streets this time around.

Right across the road, I found a truck offering bowls of homemade mac-and-cheese ladled over a scoop of pulled pork BBQ, and then baked for just a few minutes to get that nice golden brown top. That and a Coke did me up just right, and I felt much better heading over to Kato & Wendy’s hotel for our scheduled Gamma World adventure.

I’ve written before about Kato’s DM skills, so when he invited me to play in a GW adventure he was creating specifically for Gen Con, he didn’t have to ask twice. I met up with him and Wendy, and we set up at a table in one of their hotel’s public gathering areas. Three of their other friends joined us, and a four-hour post-apocalyptic quest ensued.

My random character generation? A highly dexterous felinoid demon. Naturally, I named him Cattygrumpus.

GWCattygrumpus

It was so meta, and so fun, and Kato’s attention to detail and planning were on full display. The setting was Indianapolis itself, in the ruins of the convention center. After Gen Con, Kato explained it himself via Twitter, and shared some of the cool original art one of his friends – @symatt – contributed.

I collected Kato’s Twitter descriptions and other art in this Storify piece.

And when the whole thing was over, we each got a couple custom Gamma World cards – again, worth reading for the detail.

GWKatoCards

So, having gotten my third wind, I headed off to check into the hotel and take a shower before attending A Night with Dungeons & Dragons

I met up with Kato & Wendy outside the Indiana Roof Ballroom, the interior of which was designed to evoke Baldur’s Gate. And while there was a big puzzle/murder mystery activity you could participate in, the three of us spent most of the evening eating, drinking, talking, and enjoying the surroundings and talking to several nifty game creators.

Shortly after 10 p.m., I caught up with Jonathan and Dave in Hall D of the convention center – the main open gaming venue. They introduced me to The Great Heartland Hauling Co., and we played a game before calling it a day. (The game’s inventor, Jason Kotarski, happened to be at the next table over, and posted this picture to Twitter.)

And that was it: Having been on the go since roughly 5:30 a.m. the day before, I slept well back at the hotel.

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Running 2013: Week Thirty-five

I totaled 11.5 miles during three consecutive days this week, focusing almost solely on mileage and rarely on my pace.

All three were warm and sunny late afternoon runs – conditions under which I’m normally slower to begin with – and felt more difficult than I’d like.

  • Aug. 23: 4.4 miles, 40:26. Average pace = 9:09
  • Aug. 24: 3.6 miles, 31:32. Average pace = 8:43 (Pace over the last .6 mile = 8:05)
  • Aug. 25: 3.5 miles, 30:55. Average pace = 8:45

Year-to-date total: 235.8 miles.

Monday (the end of my running week) was the 238th day of the year, so I’m basically one extra run or a few add-on miles from being back on track.

I also realized that I have no summer or fall race plans this year, which would break a 10-year streak, and which suddenly seems kind of like something I don’t want to do, so maybe I should find myself a race to run. Dang – I really should have done Orc Stomp at Gen Con. (For the record, the first five years of that streak were all two-milers: Four Pro Football Hall of Fame Races and one North Canton. Year six, I did the Hall of Fame five-mile, and between 2009 and 2012 I ran two full marathons – Towpath and Canton – and legs in three Akron Marathons.)

Some quick searching leads me to think one of the Ohio Outside trail races would be fun, and something different than I’ve done before.

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Ohio, running | , | Leave a comment

Gen Con 2013: Part One – Getting There

Until this summer, the last time I visited Indianapolis was eight years ago, when Jim Carchidi and I covered Star Wars Celebration III for the Tribune Co. At the time, the Star Wars conventions were being run by Gen Con’s parent organization, and I remember the press room coordinator telling us, “This was a lot of fun – but you really should come back for Gen Con sometime.”

To the 2005 version of me, this didn’t sound incredibly appealing. Four days of Star Wars geekery was awesome – but a long weekend of, what? Games? I hadn’t touched a Dungeons & Dragons character sheet in decades, and for tabletop gaming, why would I drive all the way to Indianapolis?

I’m happy to say my horizons have expanded a bit since then, fueled by fantastic friends who’ve re-introduced me to role-playing games over the past several years, and gotten me into a range of tabletop and card games.

I was supposed to go to Gen Con in 2011, but that trip fell through, and last year, a big, family summer trip pretty much knocked everything else off the board.

Summer 2013: Achievement Unlocked. It’s been a week since I got back from Gen Con, where I spent a lot of excellent time with GeekDads Jonathan Liu and Dave Banks – neither of whom I’d seen since 2010 – and my friends Kato & Wendy, who were making their third trip to Gen Con.

It was four straight days of sheer amazing fun, and I’ve been looking forward to sitting down and writing about it.

So: Wednesday Aug. 14, I worked from home, so that Jenn could get me to the bus station on time.

Yep – the bus station. Several reasons, the details of which aren’t really important, but it basically boils down to the fact that my one-way bus ticket was far cheaper than either a single tank of gas or a couple days’ parking in Indianapolis. And since Kato & Wendy had offered me a spot in their car on the way home, that was really all I needed. The negatives? Just two: More time on the road than the roughly five hours it would take to drive myself, and reaching the Indianapolis bus station at 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

Still, Jonathan was due to reach Indianapolis around 6 a.m., and I knew Dave was going to be hitting downtown early, so I planned on just killing a few hours at Union Station, then making the short walk to the hotel once it was light and Jonathan was on the way.

Did I expect to sleep well on the trip? Of course not. Did I fully expect to kick off my first Gen Con trip with a rousing game of Sleep Deprivation vs. Geek Adrenaline? Of course I did. As Clark Griswold says, It’s All Part of the Experience, Honey.

Three legs on the bus trip, then. First up – Interstate 77 southbound, Canton to Cambridge, on a Barons Bus. Extremely cushy, nice ride, quiet and calm. Just about an hour. Dozed lightly.

On the way to Gen Con!

Bit of a surprise to find that the transfer “station” to the Greyhound line in Cambridge was, in fact, a Marathon station*. Interesting. Four plastic seats available inside, but I opted to stay on the bench out front, since it was a nice evening.

The Greyhound was about a half-hour late, and by the time it arrived, there were maybe 8-10 of us waiting to board. It was a pretty full ride to Columbus. Made small talk with the Amish guy who sat next to me for a bit, then snoozed until we reached the next stop. (For the record: Not as nice a bus as the Barons coach. Little less cushy, little more creaky.)

It was around 11-ish when we hit Columbus. A longer stopover: Everyone had to clear out, even those of us getting back on board to Indy. (Or points farther west: Two of my fellow travelers were headed to Denver and Las Vegas. Yoicks.) On the bright side, when we re-boarded, the bus was maybe half-full, so I had room to stretch across the seat next to me, and I actually got probably 90 minutes of decent sleep over the next 175 miles. Arrived right on time, 2:30 a.m. local time.

I resisted the urge to walk across the street to the White Castle, found a seat away from the busier parts of the station, and settled in for about four hours of sporadic napping, reading, internet-based timekilling, and watching bits and pieces of The Goonies and From Russia with Love on my Kindle.

Got a message from Jonathan shortly after 6 a.m., and headed off to meet him at the hotel. It was light outside, just before sunup, and the early risers were starting to hit the streets wearing their Gen Con admission badges. 

We’re here!

Seeing the badges and this table topper in the hotel lobby were reminders of what I love about going to conventions: They’re signs of the collective enthusiasm that reaches beyond the walls of an auditorium or exhibit hall and permeates everything around for a couple days.

Hadn’t seen Jonathan since my cross-country road trip. He sent Dave a quick message letting him know where we were, and the three of us had a hot breakfast at the hotel before walking down the street to the Indiana Convention Center.

* Post-trip footnote: The Google Street view of this station reveals the station’s makeover from a BP to a marathon, through an interesting quirk of photos taken about year apart. Here’s a super-short video.

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Games, geek, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Running 2013: Week Thirty-four

So, yeah: Been awhile since I logged my running. Lemme ‘splain:

No. There is too much. Lemme sum up.

Lost most of July to the chore of relocating (more on that some other time), and only ran 17 miles that month.

Mostly back on track in August: Even managed to do some short treadmill runs at the hotel during Gen Con (again, more on that – soon). But I’m still digging myself out of July’s mileage hole.

Where I am now: It’s day 234 of 2013, and I’ve run 224.3 miles, so I’m about ten miles short of where I want to be.

But I’m running new roads and new paths, and I’m feeling re-energized mentally and emotionally, so I’m feeling good about getting those miles back in fairly short order.

 

 

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nearing Summer’s End: Cedar Point, August

Wednesday, August 7, I took the day off for a last-minute end-of-summer trip to Cedar Point with Kelsey and her friend Joan. Above is the new Gatekeeper coaster over the park’s front entrance, shortly after we arrived at 11 a.m.

We’d driven through some hard rain on the way, but it had stopped by the time we arrived. The girls went on MaxAir (not for me, thanks: my tolerance for too much multidirectional motion – particularly hardcore spinning – has, sadly, lessened significantly over the past few years), while I went for the Wicked Twister coaster nearby.

Then we got in the line for Raptor – the queue sign advertised more than an hour’s wait, but we figured we were there, and the day would be full of waiting, so we got in line. About 20 minutes later, the rain returned and mostly shut down the park.

We decided to keep our spirits up and embrace the absurdity of enjoying the park while getting soaked, so we hit the Cedar Downs ride – Joan had never been on it, and being under cover, its operation was unaffected.

Through the no-sign-of-letting-up rain, we walked to the Matterhorn and waited in the open-air queue, getting wetter by the moment before our brief ride, laughing the whole time.

Next up? The Dodgem: Kelsey had never driven a bumper car. And we had a blast.

So now, it was nearing 1 p.m., and – this:

Blue skies. It was sunny and warm the entire rest of the day, and the rain had kept or driven away most of the crowds. We waited less than an hour for the most popular coasters – Top Thrill Dragster and Millennium Force – and walked on the brand-new Gatekeeper twice at the end of the night.

I love that Cedar Point has kept so much of the look and feel of its rides’ original eras, like the late-’70s Gemini:

– and amusement parks after sunset remain one of those joys I never get enough of:

I’ve been going to Cedar Point since I was excited just to ride those little cars that sit on a platform and circle endlessly beneath striped domes and colored light bulbs. We lived far enough away, though, that visits were once a year, at most – maybe twice during my high school and college years – so they were always special. I have summer memories there from every era of my life, with different friends and family and even solo, in sun and rain.

Dusk, when the lights start flickering on the midway and the air starts to cool, they all seem to flood back every time.

August 9, 2013 Posted by | Ohio, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

This is Me in ’83 – How I Spent My Summer Vacation

It’s been two full months since my last “This is Me in ’83” post, and yet the break seems somehow fitting, because man, was my summer of ’83 just packed.

For starters, it was my first full summer as a member of our church youth group, and while I’d attended the weekend winter retreat at Camp Wanake, the week-long summer retreats to Lakeside, Ohio were the stuff of older-kid legend.

Our youth group always rented the same big old three-story house: It was called Rockledge – still is, in fact (although only the second and third stories are available to rent now, and specifically not open to youth groups).

The week had a fair amount of structure: One day was spent on a trip to Put-in-Bay, for instance; another included a visit to the beach at East Harbor State Park. Evenings always included some kind of group after-dinner activity. But we also had what felt like a ton of free time to spend playing mini golf or shuffleboard or getting “suicides” (fountain drinks with a bit of each kind of pop mixed in) from the snack bar/video arcade down by the dock. I also liked walking around on the rocky part of the lakeshore, dodging the waves and the spray when the lake was choppy.

We could just wander around the town, checking out the limited book selection in one of the shops, getting ice cream and, in the mornings, fresh donuts. (There’s a place called The Patio – I’m pretty sure it’s the same place I remember – that served up the only cake donuts that I ever really liked. Raised donuts have always been my preference, but fresh baked cinnamon-sugared donuts still warm from The Patio? Dang.)

What I really remember was kind of neat feeling of independence.

The only photos I have from Lakeside ’83 are Polaroid instants of other people: a shot of a cross-dressed singing quartet from our “skit night,” and a picture of my friend Aaron – our junior high youth group years were really where our friendship started – performing a song-and-dance routine doled out each night as punishment to the last person to show up for dinner.

So: No Lakeside ’83 photos.

Later that summer, though, I spent a week in Roanoke, Virginia, staying with my friend Jacob. He and I had been best friends from (I think) third through fifth grades – the entire time he was in our school district. When his family left Hartville, it was the first time I’d had a real close friend move away.

I don’t remember how I got down to Roanoke – maybe our parents each drove halfway or something – but do remember a really fun week.

We spent a day at Lakeside Park (no connection to Lakeside, Oh.); we watched MTV in hopes of seeing the video for “Mr. Roboto” (We didn’t. We had to settle for “Don’t Let It End.” Which isn’t even close.); we saw Return of the Jedi – a repeat viewing for me, but I think it was Jacob’s first time; we drove up to the Mill Mountain Star.

Jake’s parents had a station wagon, and we loved riding in the way, way back, in the rear-facing bench seat. The A-Team had made a big splash earlier that year, and one day on a trip to a department store, Jacob and I had convinced his mom to buy us a couple plastic M-16 rifles with the built-in ratatatat-type noisemakers. We sat in the wayback with the window down and pretended to shoot stuff all the way home. (I know. And this was in the era well before toy guns had to be made in tiger stripes and fluorescent colors. These were solid matte black plastic.) We spent a lot of time that week running around Jacob’s yard, surviving as soldiers of fortune and helping people who had problems that no one else could solve. Jacob took this Polaroid shot of me crouching in wait – and though he warned me that you couldn’t even see my rifle against the dark green bush, I told him to take it anyway:

Cover me, Faceman.

So that was obviously a great week.

Finally, there was that summer’s annual family trip. We used to caravan to Lake Cumberland in Kentucky with our neighbors, the Millers. Our families would rent a houseboat together, and we’d spend a week on the lake inner tubing and waterskiing.

The summer of ’83, the trip was extended, if I recall correctly: They swung down to Roanoke to pick me up, and then we took a side trip through the Great Smoky Mountains on our way to Kentucky. We did some tourist-y type stuff, visited the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, and stayed at a campground that had a stream running through it, with some rocky rapids ideal for tubing: (Note: Same tennis shoes as in the previous picture, now available in Soaking Wet.)

…and here’s me ruining a perfectly good family photo: Yes. I’m hilarious. And yes, I’m wearing the same damn shirt as when Jacob & I were A-Teaming it up. I like to think maybe Jacob’s mom was kind enough to do a load of laundry the week I was visiting – otherwise, my overly dramatic “something stinks” look here exhibits a painful lack of self-awareness.

Onward, then, to Lake Cumberland. In addition to the waterskiing and inner tubing, the shore was loaded with steep, rocky ledges perfect for jumping from. You could also find crinoid fossils by the handful, and geodes on occasion as well.

Such style. And waving? Living. On. The. Edge.

All part of the summer of ’83, which, in retrospect, was pretty freaking cool.

August 5, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Family history | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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