It started with me attending my old church in Berkeley. I’ve been terrible about attending church for years, but I managed to make it to this service. A lot of people I wanted to see were there, including my friend Kyle who I’ve known since we were five. He had to excuse himself because he partied too hard the night before and only got two hours of sleep. I told him about taking ecstasy at the Top 8 Halloween party as he left.
Then I was the plucky assistant to a documentarian who was trying to track Jeff Mangum down to interview him. She and I had come to a city to find him. I don’t think it was a particular city, though the steep hills reminded me of San Francisco. We knew the address we had to go to, but passed it a few times on the street because it was poorly numbered. The place was a large apartment building, maybe in the Victorian style, that was built like a maze. A burly dude there offered to be our guide, but he didn’t seem to know the place any better than we did.
It was impossible to tell which apartment would be where and we got lost several times, catching glimpses of Jeff playing with his cats with no idea of how to reach him. Once, an exterior stairway collapsed under us. Nobody was hurt but we were frustrated about starting over because there was a large wall made of logs blocking the entrance to the place.
When we finally found Jeff Mangum, he was at the top of the building playing very intently with his cats in the sunshine on his porch. It only strikes me as weird now that he was in the sunshine when below it had been nighttime and raining. We were just relieved to find him. He agreed to talk to us.
We stood with him in a school gym. It wasn’t the same day as the day we had found him, but this was our time to interview him. Children were playing basketball around us and Jeff kept ignoring our questions to give them high-fives and tell them how great they were doing. Suddenly, he jumped on the back of one of the bigger kids and put him in a wrestling hold that pinned the kid’s arms behind his back. He fell onto his back, still holding the kid.
The dream turned into a wrestling video game. As canned cheers roared in the background, Jeff did the worm on his back while holding the kid, grinning ear to ear. I woke up, verklempt at all the love Jeff Mangum had for those kids.
- T.: I still don't get how this is supposed to work.
- P.: There's nothing to get. We're sharing secrets. Come sit down with us.
- H.: I'll go first. I go to class drunk most Friday mornings.
- T.: Seriously?
- H.: Yeah, it's a lecture and I'm always at a party Thursday night.
- F.: And they record those, too. You barely need to go to class anymore.
- P.: Okay, T., you go.
- T.: Hmmm... Well, I fart in mosh pits sometimes.
- H.: Like at that Girl Talk concert last month?
- T.: I didn't at that one. I headbutted a dude, though.
- P.: Wait, for real?
- T.: He deserved it. It's F.'s turn, right?
- F.: Every morning, I brush my teeth in the shower-
- H.: That's all?
- F.: -and I touch myself.
- P.: Wait. Like, at the same time?
- F.: Yeah. I like the, uh, the mint, uh, the, the flavor's arousing.
Ian was certain his local video game store was a front. It had been a fixture in his neighborhood for as long as he could remember but he seemed to be their only regular customer. Every time he visited, he’d find a pair of employees staring listlessly at the wall. They could never answer questions about the games in their stock. In fact, they’d rarely engage him in more conversation than it took to ring him up.
“I don’t know,” he sighed, “I’m probably helping someone launder drug money. But they always have the games I’m looking for and it’s still better than giving my money to GameStop.”
I met Diego at math camp when we were in high school. We wound up at the same college, too. Even though he spoke no Japanese Diego was serious about keeping up on his anime, watching shows as they aired, long before fan translators got to them. The shows he typically watched were really visual action series with lots of awesome fight scenes and not too much plot.
One evening I came by his room to see if he wanted to get some dinner. On his television screen were two gangsters at the edge of a cliff, one sitting, one standing, both staring at the sun setting into the sea. The sitting one spoke solemnly, not looking at the other who, overcome by manly emotion, dropped the gun he was pointing at him. The wind whipped their hair dramatically.
“Hey Diego, what’s going on?”
“I dunno, man. They’re friends, I guess.”
- oh man does she have a booger?
- I that a booger?
- It might be a booger
- look at that pic again
- tell me if you see a booger
- because that looks like a booger
- (i'm just trying to see how many times I can say booger at this point.)
I’ve always put a lot of stock in the Sim series of video games as realistic simulations, probably more than I ought to. I mean, I know I can’t jump right into managing a real city after playing through the Dullsville scenario in SimCity and SimTower doesn’t really prepare for that third dimension that towers usually have, but I feel like I have a head start on the skills and mindset required of a city planner or a real estate developer or an ant thanks to the Sim games. So naturally when The Sims came out I convinced myself that this was a simulation game that could demonstrate what a great adult I would be.
I borrowed a copy from my friend and got started. The interface was easy enough. Building a house? No problem. Furnishing it? Easy peasy. I moved my Sim into the newly built and tastefully appointed house, ready to help her build a career and family. And then my Sim had to pee.
I could see it coming thanks to that helpful pee-o-meter so I moved my Sim into the bathroom just as she started to have thoughts of a toilet. I stood her right in front of the toilet. She stood there unmoving, thinking about the toilet. The one right in front of her looked almost exactly like the one in her thought balloon. I thought for sure it’d be easy for her to make the connection but she just stared at the toilet.
I started to panic, feeling the urgency my Sim was undoubtedly feeling as her pee-o-meter sank lower and the toilet thought bubble got more emphatic. I started clicking every combination of buttons and toilet that looked reasonable. When those didn’t work, I tried unreasonable combinations. I tried shouting at the computer.
A puddle formed under my Sim as her pee-o-meter went from empty to full again. She started crying. I quit the game and deleted it from my computer.
(I’d like to take the time to reassure anyone reading this that I do, in fact, know how to use a toilet despite the evidence to the contrary that this story presents.)