Thirteen Years Ago, I Was Almost Divorced.

My wife recounts what our divorce was almost like, in a beautiful essay written on our fifth anniversary, back when we had just gotten out of the worst of it.

Thanks to my blogging, a lot of people sort of idolize the relationship I’ve forged with Gini.  And it is a great relationship.  But there was a time when it wasn’t, and we struggled with everything, and I’m proud of what we’ve wrought and yet trepidatious that people think our love came out of nowhere.

We fought a lot.  We fight a lot.  We steer this relationship hard.  And my wife knows how bad things got, which is why we both cherish what we have now.

Fifteen years.  Damn.  Still a little weirded out by that one.

Rebecca Is Gone, But We Can Help Save Other Children. Please Help My Wife.

So anyone who’s been reading this blog over the last year will know what happened to my goddaughter Rebecca.  A bright girl.  The funniest and sarcastic five-year-old you’d ever meet.  the kind of clever and bright girl who was destined for grand adventures.

Except what she was actually destined for was a brain tumor, which killed her on her sixth birthday.

Fuck destiny.

Right now, there are other kids who are also dying from cancer.  And science, blessed wonderful science, is working overtime to look destiny in the face and go “Fuck you, destiny, we have a child who’s going to live.”

But that magic takes money.

And my wife is raising that money, by doing the annual walk for Rebecca, and asking you to donate.  This is a rough, rough time on Gini; last year, this time, Rebecca was alive and doing well and we foolishly thought we were going to beat this.  And under a purple canopy, in a room full of people who would have sacrificed their lives for her, we found out just how wrong we were.  And that knowledge has eroded all of us, eaten our sanity, knowing that there was nothing we could do but hold her when she died.

There will be fucking other kids who die from this.  But I am asking you to look in the teeth of this fate and say, “Not today,” and donate what you can to take some family with a child who would die without the next breakthrough and make this a literal history.  I am asking you to take a dollar, five dollars, whatever you’ve got to shift the difference from “She died” to “She had a really rough patch when she was six, but look at her now!”

I am asking you to give because thanks to a convention commitment on my part, Gini will be doing this walk alone and grieving, and every dollar you give her will tell her that she is not alone.  That you cared.  That you remembered Rebecca and did what you could to help.

So please.  Share.  Retweet.  Give.  Do whatever you can.

Because there is only one God, and that God is Death, and what we say to Death is “Not today.”  We could not shout loud enough to save Rebecca.  But when humanity shouts it shouts with doctors, and medicines, and hospitals, and I ask you to raise your funds and raise your voices to silence that horrible future for some other set of parents now who, looking at their baby in the arms, does not know what is about to hit them.

Save her.  Fucking save her.

Fifteen Years With Gini, A.k.a. The Right Kind Of Argument

In 1996, I had become a grownup and I didn’t much like it at all.

If you’d reduced my life to a checklist, it would have appeared I had everything: My first corporate job, with an actual salary, working at Borders Book Shop headquarters?  Check.  My first apartment, living on my own, having finally moved out of my mom’s house?  Check.  My girlfriend, having moved out to Michigan with me? Checkity-check.

But the job was stressful, and my girlfriend and I were tearing each other apart.

My girlfriend and I had matching social anxieties; we were both terrible about meeting new people, and so for two years we never made a friend.  All we had was each other, trapped in an apartment because we didn’t have the money to go out – and the apartment was a hoarders-style horror of comic books and ferret shit and sculpie clay smeared all over the floor, junk piled up in such quantities that we had to adopt a rolling seaman’s gait just to cross the living room.  You could not see our carpet, lost under a sea of things.

We fought all the time.

And when I say we fought all the time, I meant it.  There were daggers in our laughs, in-jokes made at each other’s expense, so even our fun times had boxcutters clutched within soft gloves.  Her strain of messiness stressed me out and mine stressed her out, and we didn’t agree on money, or the lives we wanted to lead – but we had no friends.  And we were both terrified of the other leaving, of being locked up alone with literally no one.

But that’s how couples worked, I thought.  I’d been raised in a welter of psychotherapy, so I believed that if we just aired our grievances honestly enough, for long enough enough, then this abscess would drain.  It had to.

This is where I met Gini.

Because at the end of the day, I had my closet.  The apartment was too small for an office, but there was a walk-in closet where I’d stuffed my computer, and in my retreat I found the Compuserve Star Wars Discussion Forum.

We tell our friends “Oh, we met in a Star Wars chat room,” but that’s actually a lie because nobody remembers BBSes.  I’d call out on my modem, download individual forum threads at an exorbitant rate, and then reply to all my online friends – the only friends I had.

Gini was one of a gang of regulars.  She was married, and lived in Alaska, and we argued about everything.  Everything.  We debated politics, and abortion, and America’s reliance on oil, and I didn’t bother to hold back to tell her when she was a fool because that’s the way this chat room worked, and she schooled me on any number of topics and actively demonstrated how I was an idiot….

…and for four years?  Not a spark of romance.  Just good old-fashioned internet tussling.

But goddamn if Gini didn’t make me smile.  She was smart.  She was cutting.  And she held her fucking own against anybody.

She was one of the dim sparks that held me together while my girlfriend and I slowly tore each other apart.

Then my girlfriend, quite sanely, left.

I was astonished.  We hadn’t been happy in some time, but… we’d been arguing.  And still, I was convinced that if we just analyzed what was wrong, endlessly churning up all the ways we were incompatible, we’d stumble upon a solution.

That’s how therapy worked, you see.  You talked until it worked.

My girlfriend was tired of talking.  And so she moved back to Connecticut.  Where she made herself a much better life without me, and I say Godspeed to you, sweetie, thank God you were smart enough to go.

And I did not die of loneliness.  Driven by desperation, I made some friends.  I dated around in Michigan.  And still, I spent time on the Compuserve Star Wars forum, because I loved the people there, and…

…I loved Gini.

That was a slow revelation, of course.  I got a flicker of it when she mentioned she was getting divorced.  And another when she was flirting with someone else in the chat room and I got jealous.  And I emailed to tell her that I’d never flirted with her only because I was “half a heartbeat away from falling in love with you,” and…

…she loved me too.

This was, of course crazy.  I still credit my mother for keeping a straight face when I told her, “I’m quitting my job to move up to Alaska and marry this divorced woman I met on the Internet, and take care of her two kids.”

But damn if that’s not what we did.

And Gini and I moved in together, and in a beautiful world I would have learned all the lessons from my ex-girlfriend and she would have learned all the lessons from her ex-husband, and the story would be over.

But as it turns out, Gini and I argued all the time.  Over a lot of the same issues.  We had screaming arguments over money, and jealousy, and messiness….

…but there was one difference.

I still remember that beautiful day dawning – and it was literally dawning, because Gini and I had fought all night.  Ten hours of debate over who was fucking up more in this relationship, that kind of agonizing argument that continued because we both sensed the other was almost reachable, just a few inches away from seeing our point, and so even as Gini washed up for work I sat by the tub and we fucking kept arguing.

And the light dawned.

And she turned to me and said, “You’re right.  I’m being shitty here.  I shouldn’t do that.  I’m sorry.”

And a miracle happened.

The thing was, she was being shitty and I was being shitty and our relationship was this feces-encrusted tangle of unforgiveness.  And I could have fucked up badly at that point, so badly, if I’d crowed and said, “Yeah, goddamned straight, you are fucking up, see what a horrible person you are?”

But when Gini saw her faults…

…I saw mine.

And I apologized, too.

I don’t even remember what the fight was about, which is terribly stupid, considering it ate an entire day for both of us.  All I remember is the golden light of the sun playing across our bathroom, Gini with shampoo in her hair, us holding hands, feeling like something tremendous had changed.

And it had.

And that was when I learned there were two kinds of arguments: the kind that just keeps knocking you down, and the kind that knocks over the rotten parts so you can rebuild.  And with my ex-girlfriend, I had made the stupid mistake of needing to be Right so often that I was dead-set on Godzilla-stomping her dreams to prove my point, and she dug in deep trenches and gave nothing because she wasn’t wrong…

…but when Gini admitted she was wrong, everything changed.

Everything.

I don’t think we could have survived without that single moment in the tub.  Because of the two of us, only she had the strength to be wrong.

And here we are.  Today is our fifteenth anniversary.  Fifteen fucking years together, and we have grown to support each other.  We are a construction project continually in the making, investigating what’s not working, knocking down the bad parts, finding ways to bolster the weak parts.  Remaking.

What we have made is beautiful.

We’ve endured heart attacks, and death, and more death, and the inevitable fractures that come with polyamory, and financial stress, and job stress, and all of that has been accompanied with, as Gini wisely said during our vows – because even then, she could see things far better than I – us “cheerfully bickering our way through life.”

We argue.  A lot.  Continually.  Fiercely.  Sometimes angrily.  But that works for us because we are passionate, and we are builders, and what I didn’t understand back in 1996 was that the arguments only work if you’re willing to be wrong.

In 1996, I had become a grownup and I didn’t much like it at all.

In 2014, I had become a husband.  And I loved it.  I loved every moment of it.

As I love her.

Happy anniversary, Gini.

Depression Is Boring Depression Is Boring Depression Is Boring Depression Is Bo

I’m never sure why I write about depression.

I mean, I know why I’ve written about depression – it helps other depressives to feel normal, knowing that other people have gone through it.  But I’ve written enough entries on being depressed that frankly, you can go look it up.

And the big secret to being depressed is that it’s repetitive.  It’s like writing about breathing.  It’s a fact in your life, and not much changes when it arrives: Woke up depressed.  Again.  Didn’t feel much like getting out of bed.  Again.  Pondered calling in sick to work.  Again.  Went to work and did what was required.  Again.  Hated my novel.  Again.  Wrote 800 words anyway.  Again.  Felt guilty for not writing 1,500 like I’d promised.  Again.  Did the bare minimum of socializing so as not to worry people.  Again.

It’s not that I’m sad this time around, exactly, I’m just… unmotivated.  I appear to be a functional human being because I have accreted tons of habits to keep me going until such a time as I’m loving life again, and I am working on the novel (which I hate, which will take longer to finish now, and I really wanted this fucking thing done by October but I don’t think that’s happening), but I’m feeling very dead inside.

Gini tells me it’s probably Rebecca.  Could be.  Could also be that my Seasonal Affective Disorder, which usually strikes in the spring, has finally flipped and people will stop annoying me by saying, “You know, SAD happens in the fall, not the spring!”

But the fundamental problem with depression is that as a writer, it doesn’t give you much to work with.  You have no strong motivations except, perhaps, to dissolve into nothingness for a time.  You have nothing interesting to discuss because you don’t find much interesting.  I can fake passion in my essays because they’re reflexive now, but even so I feel a sort of Oh, that’s what I should write about instead of the solid Yes! that pulls me out of my chair.

There’s but one thing I’m looking forward to in life right now, and that’s tomorrow.  I’ll write about that then. That’s important.

But today, I’m writing about my depression because – well, I don’t know why.  It’s not like you don’t know I get depressed.  It’s not like I’m desiring support – honestly, I feel overwhelmed by all the social interaction as it is.

I think I’m writing it because it feels vaguely dishonest to be writing semi-daily entries about life and to pretend this isn’t saturating everything I do.  I’m working.  I’m writing.  I’m talking to people, albeit sporadically and in fits.  But inside, I’m just this gray numbness, waiting in life like you’d wait in line at the bank, waiting for something to change so I can feel again.

Right now, I’m just a mass of old habits, ticking along, more clockwork than man.  If I were in a better mood, I’d write about how habits become a survival trait when you’re depressed, but that would require energy I have.  But at the moment, I’m on auto-pilot, a degrading collection of learned behaviors acting in sequence.  Maybe it’s not important that you know that.  Maybe it is.

But now you know.  Take whatever you can get from it.  And move on.

 

If You’re In Cleveland, And Looking To Game, May I Recommend Critical Hit Games?

…I recommend Critical Hit Games, in Cleveland Heights.

They were a complete surprise to me, as we had driven to dinner on that side of town and I saw a gaming shop out of nowhere.  “GINI!” I said, grabbing her sleeve.  “A NEW GAME SHOP CAN WE STOPCANWESTOPCANWESTOP” and I kept yelling the words over and over and over again until she pulled the car over.

I wasn’t expecting much.  Most game shops are surly places, warehouses for a meager supply of stock, and since it was 8:00 I expected a single clerk to glare at me balefully as I wandered around a mostly empty place.

But no!  I was greeted by not one but two people, both of whom made eye contact – a rarity akin to platinum coins in the world of gaming shops – and unbelievably, on a Wednesday night, the store was filled with gamers.  Two roleplaying games going on, each with at least five people, a pretty rousing game of Dominion, and some third card game I didn’t know.  And the store was – hold your breath – clean.

I talked with one of the owners, and they’d only opened up two months ago.  But they’d made the very wise decision of reaching out to local gamer groups and saying, “Hey, come play here, you don’t have to buy anything.”  (Which is a really smart strategy for game stores, as it gets people trained to go to their store and makes them look successful when strangers like me walk in.)  So they’d contacted the Cleveland Pathfinder’s Group – there is one, apparently – and gotten people in the door, and they’re already sold out on their Khans of Tarkir Magic prerelease tournament.

So that’s going well.

Still, any gaming store needs a little love to thrive in this day and age, and so if you’re interested and on that side of town, I’d check it out.  Their stock is more weighted towards board games than RPGs at this point, sadly – that’s standard, these days – but they’re well organized and super-friendly and they have a signup board for games where if you’re interested in, say, playing Hero System or Vampire, they’ll put you on a list and notify you when they find a GM.  That, I kinda like.

(And I bought the new D&D Player’s Guide.  Because I am a goddamned sheep, my friends, I am a goddamned sheep.)

How Pokemon and Magic Cards Affect the Minds and Values of Children

This was too awesome to sum up on Twitter, so I’m just gonna point you to this awesome fucking web page on The Occult Dangers of Pokemon.  Your highlights!

What if [children] carry their favorite monsters like magical charms or fetishes in their pockets, trusting them to bring power in times of need?

What if?  What if?  I remember the Tamagotchi plagues of the 1990s, when children routinely walked into the dens of rabid lions and trusted their plastic pets to shield them from danger.  Those children are now lion dung.  Can Pikachu be any less harmful to the feeble-minded?

He told her that during recess on the playground the children would “summon” the forces on the cards they collect by raising sticks into the air and saying, “‘Spirits enter me.’ They call it ‘being possessed.’”

Dude, you’re – you’re not playing according to tournament rules here.  Put the stick down and fucking tap your Mewtwo.

Share your observations. Spark awareness in a young child with comments such as, “That monster looks mean!” or “That creature reminds me of a dragon,” along with “Did you know that in the Bible, serpents and dragons always represent Satan and evil?”

Now I want to go to the Prerelease this weekend and just say this during every goddamned match.

The last line, the Pokemon mantra, fuels the craving for more occult cards, games, toys, gadgets, and comic books. There’s no end to the supply, for where the Pokemon world ends, there beckons an ever-growing empire of new, more thrilling, occult, and violent products. Each can transport the child into a fantasy world that eventually seems far more normal and exciting than the real world. Here, evil looks good and good is dismissed as boring. Family, relationships, and responsibilities diminish in the wake of the social and media pressures to master the powers unleashed by the massive global entertainment industry.

This is literally how I think of the Internet.

…Any child exploring the most popular Pokemon websites will be linked to a selection of occult games such as Sailor Moon, Star Wars, and others more overtly evil.

I wish I had known which overtly evil games they were discussing here.  Aside from “Fuckmenace: the Gathering,” which encourages you to remove your pants for gain.

Oh wait.

Anyway, it’s an awesome read for any Magic player and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s like The Room of Collectible Card Games.

Today’s Programming Embarrassment

So as it turns out, I had a database that was missing critical data.  It was possible to “fill in” that data from other sources, as this was a rarely-used database, so I did what programmers since time eternal have done: I whipped up a script to fix the problem.

But after running the script, I discovered that the quick-fix script had only filled in about 90% of the necessary data.  Investigation showed there were edge cases that needed some special handling – and so I changed my script to handle those special edge cases and ran it again.

That got us to about 97% completion.  But – you guessed it – there was a tricky 3% that needed to be handled with an entirely different method, so I changed the script to handle those edge cases, reran it, and got us to 100% completion.  Awesome!  We fixed the problem!

Now, months later, the database has grown, and once again it is missing critical data.  Normally, this would be a trivial fix.  After all, I’d already filled in the data!  I can just take the logic I’d created in that quick-fix script, apply a filter so that the critical data is filled in whenever a new row is inserted, and have things up and running within an hour or two!  We’ll fix this lack of data forever!

Except.

Except.

I didn’t actually save that first script.  I just kept saving the old script, modifying it to handle the current edge case, and re-running it.  So what I have now is not the script that fixes 90% of the data in one run, but some messed-up tangle of code that handles a 3% edge case.  What happened to the 90% fix logic I created?

Well, I saved over it.  Basically, I deleted it in stages.  So I’m going to have to recreate all that logic from scratch today.

I AM GENIUS.