I was born in a hospital in the suburbs of San Francisco. I lived the first year of my life in a house in the small surfer town of Bolinas, a town which gained notoriety in the Nineteen Sixties, when its residents deliberately removed signs that pointed to it off of the main highway, in order to keep tourists from visiting.
My mother told me later on that that house had been slept in by the Grateful Dead. I have never been sure of that though. She is the kind of person who tends to remember things like that, and then develop them into all sorts of tall tales. Having inherited her tendency to exaggerate, I wound up telling my friends in high school that I had lived in the same house as the Grateful Dead.
My parents had met on a hippie commune near the tiny town of Covelo in mountainous northeastern California. As is the story for many parents of that generation, they were descendants of far more conservative family lines that could be traced back to the mother continent. I was a blond haired flower child. It seems natural to me now that I am drawn to anti establishment values and down to earth living, in this modern age where social change seems perpetually on the horizon.
My parents eventually moved to a trailer outside of the town of Willits. They rented a plot of land, and my dad built his first house there. My only memories of the house are tarpaper and sun bleached wood. What I do remember of that place is the simple joy of innocence, sunshine, tall, dry golden grass, highway 101 down the road, the airstream trailer that looked like a huge can of coors light, and one incident when my parents had a family that they knew over for dinner, and I had grabbed the innards of a cooked rabbit out of the compost and ran around waving them in the air yelling, “Pee bags! Pee bags!” Apparently the family was disgusted and formed a bad opinion of me afterward. My parents were angry at the time, but they had joked about it later on, calling their friends snobby and artificial for taking things so seriously.
Ah, the innocence of youth. At what point did all the negativity of the world begin to take its toll on me?
I can’t remember preschool. I remember moving from what my parents called “old new house” into what they called “new new house.” Those pet names were fun then and are now nostalgic. New new house was the second house my dad built. I think he purchased the house actually, but then added on to it later. The important thing is where the house was located. It was in the center of twenty five beautiful acres, about ten or fifteen miles north of Willits.
The property boundaries were the summit of a steep, rocky mountain, whose face is most likely much smaller in actuality than the image I have in my mind (to the north), a road called Third Gate Road (to the south), a fence that divided our land from the neighbors (in a few locations), and Sherwood Road (to the west). The two roads intersected on the corner of our huge meadow, which my sister and I ran around in.
Yes, we stood atop a rock in that beautiful meadow, with our two sheep dogs, and watched the occasional car pass by, the clouds float lazily overhead, and the grass blow in picturesque fashion, like something out of a Terrence Malick film. When we were not wandering that meadow, we were hiking the rocky face of the mountain, building forts, playing swords and sorcerers, or causing mischief in the rock quarry that lay on the eastern side of the long, winding driveway up from Third Gate.
There was a chicken coop, from which could be heard the comforting sounds of clucking during the daylight hours, and the cock-a-doodle-doing of the rooster in the mornings. There was a vegetable garden, where my dad planted snow peas, tomatoes, squash and zucchini. I have pleasant memories of waking up in the morning and walking that familiar path up to the garden, where I would eat the snow peas right off the vine without washing them. Then I would step into the chicken coop semi-hesitantly, being intrigued yet also somewhat frightened to be up close and personal with those odd creatures (which, like any animal, are harmless yet intimidatingly independent at the same time) and steal their precious eggs from underneath their bellies for our consumption.
I remember getting hooked on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario Brothers was a cultural phenomenon. Then Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. I remember getting into the The Legend Of Zelda, and then visiting a friend of my sister’s, a girl named Kristen, and seeing that her brother and his friends (a group of kids who were older, in their teens) had subscribed to a magazine called Nintendo Power, which had maps to the game’s overworld in one of its issues. This led me to realize that the NES was a big deal, and I was not the only one caught up in its magic. I was a gamer from that day forth.
While my sister got lost in Barbie, and My Little Pony, I was hooked on video games. A had two best friends, named Eric and Kelly, who lived down the road. We would explore the countryside together and play video games at Eric’s house. Wizards and Warriors and Mega Man were two of our mutual favorites. Several years later, when Super Mario Brothers 3 came out, my dad Harry drove me to Toys R Us in Santa Rosa to buy a copy of it. I still remember that bright yellow box with the drawing of Mario with a raccoon tail on its cover. Then several years after that, he drove me to buy a Super Nintendo, and a copy of Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Super Mario World. From then on I was lost in video games. I even got my sister into it, when Final Fantasy 2 and The Legend of Zelda, A Link To The Past were in fashion.
Then, inevitably, real life intervened. I wished that I could have enjoyed being a video gamer forever, and reading novels like The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, but in school, kids insisted that I participate in their social experiments. I realized then, as I became a student at Sherwood School, a “hippie school” in the hills outside of Willits, that I would be picked on by kids who were “cooler” than I was. I realized that I was “uglier” than many of the students, and that I thought more than they did. I began to deal with it.
A kid name Gidon began to hit me. My mom went to his house, being a wonderful mother to me, and told his mother to discipline him. This of course only caused Gidon to treat me worse. I eventually left Sherwood School when my parents enrolled me in Blosser Lane Elementary, in Willits. I gained a few new enemies, who picked on me incessantly. I remember one day, when I jumped on top of a bench, having had enough, and drop kicked one of those boys in the head. He had cried, and I had delighted, and gone to suspension. It had made up for the time when he or one of his friends had blown air through a straw on the playground, and stuck me with a needle that had been inside the straw. It had been propelled through it, eventually contacting my skin, and sticking into it with a prick. I had been afraid of AIDS, and rightly so, for who knows how many other dorks had been struck with that fateful needle.
It was at Blosser Lane that I developed my first crush, on a blond haired beauty named Danya. She was nice to me when everyone else was not, but of course she was out of my league. Everyone hated me. My only real friend in school was a very shy, odd boy named Chris. We played video games together sometimes. Danya was more interested in a kid named Jonathan, who was your classic good looking boy. Jonathan was smug and careless, and of course popular with the ladies. I was jealous. I still remember what their faces look like to this day. When I look back at the yearbook photos I realize how young they were, but when you are that age, everyone seems grown up, so that is how I remember them. There were two bullies, whose names I have forgotten. They were a team, one short, one tall, and they were the ones who blew the needles out of straws at people.
My memories of Willits outside of school are good ones. I have comforting if vague recollections of a small health food store that my mother would take me to. A restaurant on Main Street, and an arcade where I had first played Super Mario Brothers. Play it Again Video next to Safeway, and Round Table Pizza near the edge of town. Then there are the memories of our travels. A trip to Mexico, where I had transformed myself into a golden tanned beach bum for a few months. We drove to the coast often, through the redwoods to the town of Fort Bragg. There we would eat fish and chips or clam chowder at our favorite restaurant, called Captain Flints, which was right down next to the water at Fisherman’s Wharf. My parents were so warm and loving. They created songs for us to sing, one of them entitled “Oceana”, which we would always sing on the way to the ocean. We would go to a town called Boonville in the hills outside of Ukiah, to attend the Boonville County Fair.
Pleasant memories of dry hills, gorgeous forest and warm sunshine. I would play my Game Boy in the backseat on trips, and fight with my sister. We would sing The Beatles as a family in order to get along. We would stop and get our favorite treat, large multi colored penis shaped popsicles called Big Sticks, at a food mart on the way to “the tower.” The tower was a California Department of Forestry lookout tower that was used to spot forest fires over a large area of Mendocino County. My parents had signed up to inhabit that tower in the summers and watch for fires, so we lived there during those months for a number of years. I have many good memories of the tower.
The tower seemed very tall. It was hexagonal shaped I believe. It was sided with large flat pieces of what felt like plasticized sheet metal, that were a faded aqua green in color. It had a white balcony that was way too rickety surrounding the top floor, which was a room with large glass windows on every side. There were tables where maps were set out. Underneath that top room were several more stories for its occupants to live in. I can’t recall the interior layout of the tower too specifically, but a very pleasant list of warm fuzzies come to mind. The long, dusty, beautiful drive up the narrow, winding dirt road. Blackberry bushes, poison oak, and perfect Mendocino county weather. Once there, rattlesnakes surrounded the place. The fear of venturing far because of that. Tall tales of my dad cutting their heads off with a shovel, and even of me doing the same. Looking out over the rolling hills and seeing all the way to the ocean on clear days. Better yet, playing my NES in my room below. Vegging out to games like Ninja Gaiden one and two, Batman, Metal Storm, Chip and Dales Rescue Rangers, and Metroid. Then having a Genesis, and playing Shinobi. Yes, the tower reminds me of Shinobi. The tower also reminds me of the Super NES title Legend of the Mystical Ninja. Funny how certain places remind me of certain video games.
Family trips to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, where we hiked to the top of El Capitan together, and my mom got scared to death by a bear in the night. We would camp when we were in Yosemite, but we would stay in hotels and eat at the Harvey’s buffet when we were in South Lake Tahoe. Even more nostalgic are the trips I made with my dad, who would work away from home in the summer, doing construction for various friends of his. My mom would stay on the farm with my sister, and I would sometimes be sent away to stay with my dad during those jobs. There are two of those trips that I remember fondly. For some odd reason though, it is the particular video game that I got into during a trip that brings me the most nostalgia. One of them was to an area called the Mesa, near Bolinas, along the coast. My dad occasionally did work for a man named Bill Niman, whose name is now synonymous with the Chipotle chain, because of their use of his hormone-free beef in their restaurants.
We slept in a trailer at Niman’s place. My dad worked, while I lost myself in a NES game that was my first introduction to the bliss of the role playing genre. It was called Dragon Warrior. By today’s standards, it is tough to get into, but at the time, it was extremely intriguing and addictive. Later on, I would relish games like Final Fantasy 2 and 3 for the SNES, all as a result of my having fallen in love with Dragon Warrior in that trailer on that clifftop meadow by the sea. Another time I stayed in Stinson Beach, while my dad did a job for an architect named Valentino Agnoli. He had a lovely glass windowed, artistically built home. The house my dad worked on was a ground breaking house on the beach. At the place we were staying at though, my warm fuzzies all surround a video game which I suspect was the title Tom Sawyer for the NES. I wonder why sometimes, for it is a technically inferior game. Nevertheless, its screenshots remind me pleasantly of those times in Stinson Beach. I tried to learn to surf from a legend, and it was a traumatic experience. To this day, I am scared shitless of sharks and being in the ocean in general.
Back in Willits, my mom would make us crepes in the mornings, and my dad french toast, and we would watch movies together. I got a parakeet named Doodles one year. We had several dogs and a number of cats over the years. Our longest lasting dog was named Moochie. For some reason I can’t remember how he died, but I remember clearly watching him run out in front of a car on Sherwood Road one day, and being struck on his snout at high speed. He had spun around and yelped, but he was miraculously okay. The cat of all of our lives, who outlived all the other cats we had, was a wonderful Siamese named Critter. My mom had owned her since before I was born. She ended up living until I was out of high school, when she had finally died at an age somewhere in her mid twenties. She had a bad eye then, and my mom suspected that one of my reckless Santa Rosa friends had something to do with it. Just to think of that possibility breaks my heart to this day. She would cry loudly for hours at that age, and was eventually put out of her misery, to my mother’s dismay. Poor Critter. How you loved me all of those years. You were so warm and caring.
So time passed and my parents decided that it would be a disservice to allow my sister and I to grow up in Willits. They rented out their house and land, and we moved to Sonoma County. At that time, my parents were fighting. I am sure that my misbehavior had something to do with it. I became more of a brat each year, as my social life seemed to travel steadily downhill. Eric and Kelly forgot about me. We no longer had Moochie. My mom Rebecca took Critter and Darcy and moved into a small apartment in Bennett Valley, a suburban neighborhood in western Santa Rosa. My dad Harry and I moved to a house in the country outside of Forestville, nearer to the coast. It was there that I was hurtful to animals for the one and only time in my life. It was all thanks to the most traumatic teasing that I would endure through all my years of public schooling. I was ten years old, and this was the sixth grade.
The only positive memories from that time were living with my dad, playing Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, and watching soft porn for the first time on the Showtime channel. The teasing at Forestville school was horrific, and haunts me to this day. Everyone in the school picked on me. For one traumatizing afternoon recess, I was chased across the field by a group of at least thirty students. I was made to feel as if I was inferior to every single one of my peers. I was made to feel as though there was something fundamentally wrong with me, but I knew in my heart that this was not true. I took my anger out on my poor father, and a kitten, who I had bought and then tossed one horrible afternoon into a line of blackberry bushes. One morning in class, I had cut a rubber band with scissors at one point, turning it into a long strip. Then I pulled it taught, aimed it along my line of sight at a fly, and then let go. The fly burst into a thousand pieces. I felt very proud of my new discovery. A few minutes later, I let go of the wrong end by accident, and I screamed, surprising everyone in the classroom. I was rushed to the nurses office with a damaged eyeball. I had to take special drops.
Ironsword, Ikari Warriors, 1943, Life Force, Legacy of the Wizard, Battle of Olympus, Contra and Super C, Mega Man 2 and 3, G. I Joe, Faxanadu, Zelda 2 The Adventure of Link, Kid Icarus, Ghosts N’ Goblins, and then Act Raiser, Super Metroid, Secret of Mana, Breath of Fire, Lufia and the Fortress of Doom, Aladdin, Donkey Kong Country, Mickey’s Magical Quest, Demon’s Crest, Contra 3 The Alien Wars. The list goes on and on. Funny how in those days, they made video games “like they used to.” (I am grinning)
So you see dear reader that I was formed early on into an introspective loner, who escaped into art in order to avoid real life. Video games were the first form of that for me, and in fact they continued on for much of my life. I am now 33 years old, and I have a fair amount of emotional baggage. Writing of my childhood, I clearly can trace the beginnings of those issues back to then. I guess it is fundamental psychology. At least that is what I hear through the grapevine. That it all goes back to stuff that happened to you when you were a kid.
Anyway video games got shittier after more and more people started playing them, and everyone started getting excited about graphics. I remember reading in Nintendo Power all about how the Super Nintendo would be using some kind of Silicon Graphics super processor, apparently the same one used in the film Terminator 2. The people at Industrial Light And Magic were on board, and the games on it would look just like the special effects on TV. Looking back, that was a bunch of rubbish to sell games to salivating teenagers. Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct look amazing still, and likewise Mortal Kombat for the Genesis, but that is different. The best thing about the games on the Super Nintendo was their gameplay.
Unfortunately that did not last for long. The 2D Platforming genre that had defined the NES began to lose support by developers in favor of games that provided flashy graphics and new experiences to casual gamers. These titles were constructed poorly, and were not lasting works of art. Games became easier, and unoriginal. There were more Beat ‘Em Ups than there should have been. There were a few games that stood out among the rest, and created amazing new genres of their own. (Notably Star Fox, Street Fighter 2, and Super Mario Kart), but they were few and far between. The best thing about that era in gaming was the turn based role playing genre.
Platforming was dying, but turn based role playing was in its hayday (Arguably) Some people consider the games for later platforms to be just as quality, but in my opinion, the SNES games of that era did it best. They had the same quality that the early platforming games for the NES had had, and that was that they were actually HARD. (Not just hard to figure out, but hard to get through.) They were made for adults, but not because of graphic violence; because of difficulty. This makes them in my opinion qualify as more lasting works of art. The Legend Of Zelda, A Link To The Past is the most well made of the series, whose modern entries are boring, ugly, and repetitive, with difficulty levels suitable for a two year old and puzzles that are cliche and tiring. Likewise, Final Fantasy 2 and 3 are unique for their soaring level of storytelling, play control, music, artwork, length, and difficulty. In my opinion nothing ever came close to the artistic achievement of those three games.
So it was that I became an old school gaming snob. I shunned any modern title until one came out that was so absorbing and original that it shined like a diamond in the rough. Then I had to jump on the bandwagon. There was a period, between the ages of ten and sixteen, when none of those games were developed, and I lost interest in gaming. My parents had gotten back together. My dad had left Forestville just in time for me to escape with all limbs intact, and we had all moved back into a house together in a residential country club called Vista Del Lago, in Bennett Valley. (It should be obvious to anyone with a rudimentary grasp of Spanish/English translation, that there was a small lake in the center of that suburban development.)
Vista Del Lago was my first taste of suburban living. During my first year there, I made a few friends who also lived on Morningside Circle. There was Daniel, a wiry kid a few years younger who listened to the Beastie Boys, a group of whiny white rappers from the east coast whose music grated on my ears. There was a kid my age named Brian, who had braces and a huge scary grin. His parents were uptight conservatives who I suspected owned every album ever released by Michael Bolton and Kenny G. Brian enjoyed Tennis, and said awkward things to my sister that creeped her out. The prime example of this was the time when he had referred to an object whose identity I have forgotten as possibly “having anus on it.” Was it a coincidence that his last name, which I will not refer to here, rhymed very closely with that obscene word?
So it was that I developed these natural freindships with the lonely neighborhood dorks. A few years later, I would develop another set of friends entirely, and my life would be forever changed. This change, which consisted primarily of my introduction into skateboard and indie music culture, had actually begun a few winters before that, when my dad had taken my sister and I skiing for the first time at Kirkwood Ski Area. I had been given a choice between skiing and snowboarding, and I had chosen the latter. That decision had been a fateful one. I had taken to it naturally, and become instantly obssesed. From that day forth, I was a snowboarder.
The seed of the counterculture had begun growing in my belly. While I was playing Magic the Gathering with Brian, and Hanging out on the Street corner with Daniel and the rest of the neighborhood kids, I was harboring inside me the secret knowledge that I was king of the mountain. I treasured my winter trips to Mammoth and Heavenly, where I would hone my skills, and relish in the ecstatic joy of connecting with nature.
Since snowboarding was a side thing for me, like another life entirely, lived by another person (another escape), I needed something to connect that part of me with everyday life. It was inevitable that I started skating. I had seen kids doing it, and I never thought I could, but I had my parents buy me a skateboard anyway so I could try.
The simple act of Ollieing on a skateboard is a hard concept to grasp for someone who is brand new to the sport. The only comparisons I could make are playing the guitar or juggling, but even those do not do it justice. Anybody can step off of their skateboard with one foot and then slam their other foot down on the tail of the board, sending it flying. An ollie however requires that the back foot of the skateboarder be pressed down while at the same time he or she lifts their body upward, sliding the front foot toward the nose of the board. The downward pressure on the tail of the board by the back foot causes the tail to smack into the pavement, resulting in the board popping into the air. The difficulty comes in learning how to get your body to leave the ground also, therefore allowing your board to do the same. It is trying at first, as you cannot imagining it ever happening. Then when you began to achieve it, it feels as if you cannot tell whether you did so or not. Eventually, one knows how to Ollie in place. They can feel their body and their board achieving those few centimeters or inches of lift. Soon they can ollie while moving, and then over small objects, and then eventually up a curb without having to feel their wheels hit or their board scrape on the way up.
I took to ollieing naturally, and although I never became too technical of a skateboarder, I did develop substantial height to my ollies, and a number of unique tricks, which qualified me for my place in the skateboarding scene of Santa Rosa. That scene introduced me to a number of friends who skated. One of them, a kid named Noah, got me into my first indie rock band, and my next big obsession came into play. He had suggested to me the album Bivouac by the band Jawbreaker. I had purchased it, and I had cried for days, and lost myself in it. I was still immersed in the emotional roller coaster of my first emo experience, when my parents took me and Darcy on a summer trip to the town of Mammoth in the Central Sierras.
The trip to Mammoth was more than a vacation. It was a move. My behavior, although enriched by skateboarding and my new friends, had become dangerous for the first time in my life. I had messed around with one of the neighbor’s mailboxes, and then egged his house. I had began kicking plastic sprinklers at night in Vista Del Lago, sending plumes of water spraying into the air. I had run away with a girl who had given me my first french kiss inside the chair shack at the Vista Del Lago swimming pool, and we had stayed out well into the night in the woods together. I had gone doorway to doorway claiming to be collecting money for some kind of charity, while actually collecting it for myself. My parents moved us out of the neighborhood, and took us camping in Mammoth for that whole summer.
Warm fuzzies from that summer in Mammoth consist of Jawbreaker and the smell of the Sierras in the summertime. The scent of Pine, and the cleanest air you can imagine. We visited the Devil’s Postpile National Monument. Then we returned to Santa Rosa, and my parents moved us into a house between the natural food store Food For Thought (which was later bought out by Whole Foods) and the Montgomery High School field. I entered the ninth grade.
Doodles had been given away or something, but I had lost interest in him anyhow. I had been progressing steadily toward being a fuckup. Skateboarding was illegal (and still is), so that fueled my rebelliousness. I was getting better and better at skating. I relished waking up and feeling the pleasant burn in my muscles and soreness of the bruises on my shins and the scrapes on my elbows. I had gotten close to straight A’s in school up to that point, but now my grades began to suffer. Naturally my parents wondered what was wrong. I became angry and yelled at them, and they did not deserve that. I developed acne and had to take antibiotics for it. I coped with my depression by listening to jawbreaker and weeping. My friends all listened to terrible music like NOFX and Sublime, so I ended up getting into that, only to ditch it later on.
My sister and all of our friends drank and smoked marijuana, and I had been the only holdout. When I turned sixteen all of that changed. I got my license and my parents let me begin driving their red Toyota Corolla. When I smoked and drank for the first time, I was hooked. Weed made everything more beautiful. When I smoked life made sense. I got high and wrote songs and poetry, and I relished that. My skateboarding and snowboarding became secondaries to weed. A few friends of mine were getting into girls, and I joined with them. I found a girl to make out with from time to time. I always stayed away from going all the way like some of my buddies, because I did not want to catch Aids.
With the drugs, things got inevitably worse. I began skipping school. Occasionally we would joyride. One morning a cop came to the door. He informed my parents that our Corolla had been caught on a security camera being used to steal fire logs from outside a store the previous evening. Of course it had. We had needed them to stay warm that night while we had been drinking at the beach. Many parties; many trips to Sonoma, to make out with a group of girls who we jokingly called “the Sonoma sluts.”
The funnest of those times? Trips to San Francisco to skateboard at Pier 7, despite the risk of getting tickets and having our boards confiscated. Waking up at the beach to the stink of campfire, hungover as hell, and discovering that that stuff blowing in the wind was coming from me. “Goose down! Goose down!” I began yelling, as I realized that I had fallen asleep with my puffy black goose down jacket half hanging into the coals of the campfire. My friends laughed hysterically and talked about that for a long time. Smoking on the way home to dull the pain. Taking amateur photos of eucalyptus trees, of which I had a fascination. Getting into a few new emo bands for the first time, thanks to a man name Brian who worked at the Brotherhood Boardshop who was always playing it. Eating all my mom’s microwave corndogs, smoking weed in the garage, and inventing the sport of “trampboarding” (jumping on the trampoline with our skateboard decks underneath us, but not attached to our feet, and seeing what tricks we could invent), of which I was always the best.
Weed and emo meant the world to me, and I enjoyed driving around Sonoma County, taking photos of the eucalyptus and blasting my music. Having a car changes everything. The north bay became my playground. I would park on country roads, and walk off to take photos of the eucs, and I would sing my emo and cry to it.
At the heyday of my athleticism I was able to ollie over a tennis net fully strung, boardslide an eight stair handrail, 360 flip comfortably, one footed nose manual the length of a basketball court, and do a fair amount of other more technical maneuvers. On my snowboard I could do a backflip in the powder, ride any slope in the backcountry, perform straight airs with grabs over the largest of the kickers in the park, and 360′s and 180′s over the medium sized ones. That was the best I ever got. It was all downhill from there.
Right around my seventeenth birthday, while I was falling in love with a mixtape that Brian had given me (which contained music from Rainer Maria, The Get up Kids, Sunny Day Real Estate, Indian Summer, early Jimmy Eat World, and Cap n Jazz), I lost my virginity. It was to a girl named Nikki who lived on a farm outside of Sonoma. I had gone to her house with a different girl who I had been making out with. The three of us had been hot tubbing and drinking when the other girl had passed out. Me and Nikki had left her asleep in the hot tub, and gone to her room. The sex was awkward and should not even count, but I was such an emotional wreck (and still am) that I cried all the way home in the early morning. There is nostalgia surrounding that drive now, and that mixtape. The town of Sonoma is surrounded by gorgeous eucalyptus groves, and the drive from there to Santa Rosa is breathtaking (as are most rural drives in coastal northern California).
Emo was my friend, and still is. Although nowadays people are all about not having to genre classify everything, I feel that the genre of emo needs to be celebrated. It has a negative reputation, and that is because nobody listens to real emo. There was an underground musical style that was a very special thing, and it had nothing to do with the pop bands that called themselves emo later on, or the style of dress that became associated with the term. For a comprehensive “emocation,” Google “What the heck is emo, anyway?” That website, developed by a man named Andy Radin, will provide you with all you need to know about an incredible time in music. That website is responsible for getting me into most of the bands I listen to.
Video games became a big deal in our culture around that time, and it just so happens that they are a hell of a lot of fun to play while high. With the arrival of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, I was officially back into gaming. I purchased a Sony Playstation and began playing Tony Hawk with all of my friends. I got back into role playing games, and I purchased a Sega Dreamcast when it came out in order to play a few high profile RPGs that would be released for it. It was then that I discovered one of my favorite games of all time: Powerstone.
It is one thing to enjoy playing a one-player platforming game, or taking turns trying to beat a difficult RPG with a friend, or playing split-screen Tony Hawk, but playing the first TRUE fighting game was exhilarating. Street Fighter was a great game, but it was 2D. The 3D fighters before Powerstone were slow, sluggish, and sloppy as hell. Powerstone perfected the 3D fighter, and I was hooked. There was (and still is) no better two-player single-screen experience like it. I got some of my friends into it. Then when Powerstone 2 came out, I got EVERYONE into it, big time.
My whole group of friends, who were already kind of tied into me because they were all younger and relied on me to drive them around, were instantly hooked on Powerstone 2. You see, Powerstone 2 is the same thing, except with four players on the same screen at once instead of two. It is the only three or four player single screen video game that has ever worked. And not only does it work, but it THRILLS. I am still to this day trying to establish another Powerstone 2 players group. For a few months, when I was working at a pizza place in Rohnert Park a few years later, I had two buddies who played with me for a while. It was wonderful, and the closest I have come to those exhilarating times in Sean’s room all those years ago. Sean (one of my best buds for many years, who now hates me), thank you for those times. Nothing compares socially to that Powerstone society that we once had. We smoked chronic, drank brews, and played Powerstone 2 for many blissful nights. Then Grand Theft Auto 3 came out and ruined gaming, and I was shit out of luck.
Later on, Halo changed all of your lives, and I was part of that system link subculture for a time, and then I was online with Halo 2, but by the time the third installment came out I was broke and homeless. And besides, although some games (Halo being the prime example) are amazing split screen or online, nothing compares to having that much fun in one room with four close buddies on one large screen. Years later, I got into World of Warcraft briefly, but overall with my excommunication from my group of friends, who by that time I had gotten quite close to, my video gaming “career” came to an end.
So why was I excommunicated? Well, lets start by looking at how I was treated by said friends. During that period of several years, they had all become reliant on me because I had the car, and my parents where the only parents who would let our friends kick it in our garage and smoke weed all day. I became the guy to hang around because of that. That did not make them love me, like I did them. I realized later in life that I cherished those times. That time of my life was something I would never be able to get back once it was gone. Gradually as my friends got older, they acquired jobs, and then cars, and then girlfriends, and then places of their own. Before I knew it, I was the one trying to get into the circle again. They had always picked on me playfully, and now they had free rein to shut me out. They avoided my calls, and they gave me bad looks when I showed up a their doorsteps with buds and beers.
What made me different? Well I was a bum, of course. How did I get to a be a bum? Well let me tell you!
At that point, I had been spending my winters in Tahoe for several years. As soon as I had turned seventeen, I had taken my GED (good enough diploma), and gone to a job fair at Boreal Ski Area, near the town of Truckee. I had been hired as a ski instructor, and had rented a room inside a house with a bunch of snowboarders in the hills above Truckee. (For readers who are not familiar with northern California, Truckee is a small ski town near Lake Tahoe.)
to be continued …