Hang around me long enough...

Over the past couple of years, I've discovered something about myself. I am a horrible conversationalist. However, I'm a decent storyteller. If we're around a campfire or a poker table, at company party or a family holiday gathering, I can talk for hours as long as I'm telling a story.

If you're around me long enough, there are a few stories you'll hear me tell more than once. The following are the six stories you'll inevitably hear if you spend enough time with me.

Encore Entertainment's Shoplifter

I used to work in a record store. Well, not exactly. It was a record store, but it was also a video rental store. This was in the late 90s when CD sales and video rentals were in their prime. My manager was a burnt out hippy that used to jam with The Afghan Whigs. Two of my best friends worked there. So did a couple of the kids from my youth group - one of whom would become my roommate when I moved out of my parents' house.

Other than the ex-hippy boss who was on a smoke break for 45 minutes out of every hour, that store was a fun place to work. The best way that I've found to describe the workplace conditions is that it was like a cross between Clerks and Empire Records. The annoying and clueless customers that Dante and Randall discussed in Clerks? We got them. Like the twitterpated tween looking to buy the brand new Backstreet Boys album the day it was released; she asked if we had it in stock while standing next to a life-sized cardboard cutout display of the Backstreet Boys that was stocked with about 30 copies of the album. And the guys playing hockeyon the roof in Clerks? We played hockey in the store. Those customers asking for that one movie about that one guy and a girl? We talked to people like that daily. Discussing the philosophical merits of Star Wars? We did that. Singing and dancing with whatever music we wanted blaring over the house speakers like they did in Empire Records? Yeah, we did that too. The people that I worked with even reminded me of the characters from those those two movies.

There's one scene from Empire Records that always brings back fond memories: the one where they catch the shoplifter. There was no greater thrill than catching someone in the act of stealing. And there was one kid that came into our store - looked a lot like the shoplifter in Empire Records - and was using a razor to cut through the cellophane packaging of CDs and try to slip the disk out of the jewel case. We would occasionally find these empty jewel cases stashed around the store so we tried to keep a look out for the culprit. When I finally saw this kid doing it, it was a rush of excitement. Jeff and I played a quick game of cat and mouse after watching the kid pocket a CD. We had the doors blocked so there wasn't any way that he was going to get out. We finally cornered him and escorted him to the back room to wait for the police to show up.

By this time, the hippy manager had either quit or got fired, and his replacement was a college aged girl who had obviously been raised in a very sheltered environment. She grumbled about the kids buying Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Master P CDs. She gave dirty looks to the customers that rented rated R movies. She also started cracking down on the selection of movies and music we played during store hours. To make that point, she made us listen to nothing but Eric Clapton's Pilgrim album on repeat from open to close. She did the same thing with Natalie Merchant's Ophelia. She was a prude in every aspect of the word. She made my conservative upbringing look like a bleeding heart in comparison to hers.

She didn't spend much time on the sales floor. Where her predecessor was on a permanent smoke break, she spent most of her time in the back room counting receipts and looking through inventory logs. She was back there when Jeff and I brought in the shoplifter. The back room was divided into two sections - a stock room/janitorial area and the office. Both rooms were windowless with one metal door exit to the back parking lot where we would take the trash to the dumpster. Between the lack of windows and the tight seal around the door, that area would be pitch black without the lights on, so the lights were always on.

Once the shoplifter was standing in front of our manager, Jeff and I let go of his arms. The kid was dressed like the punk rocker stereotype: baggy wide legged jeans, patches safety-pinned to his jacket, lots of pockets to hide things. Unfortunately, nothing was in those pockets. Sometime while he was running around the store, he had ditched the stolen property. By the time we caught him, he had nothing on him. And when the door between the back room and the rest of the store was closed, he took every effort to prove he didn't have anything on him. "I got nothing on me." He kept shouting it over and over again. When we let go of his arms and our manager had turned to face him, he ripped his belt out of his jeans then pulled his pants and boxers down around his ankles and lifted his shirt up high enough to reveal his ribs. "See, I told you, I got nothing on me."

He stood there, full monty in front of our manager - whose expression was nothing more than shock and horror. We're pretty sure that this was the first time in her life that she had ever seen male genitalia. She just sat there, slack jawed and staring. As usual, every light in the office was on. There was not a single dark corner for her to go hide and escape the sight of this scrappy kid shaking what his papa gave him right in front of her face.

She asked us to turn off the lights and keep an eye on him until further notice. She left the room and did not return until the police arrived. The CDs he attempted to steal were located and he was taken away. As thrilling as it was to catch a thief, nothing beats seeing the look on our manager's face as she tried to reconcile what it was that she was seeing.

My first gig

Shortly after Bekah and I moved to Sioux Falls, I got a job as a DJ. Over the next year, I would play for several wedding receptions, school dances, and company parties. Much like working at Encore Entertainment, this was one of the funnest jobs I've ever had. However, I had a handicap for a DJ in the Sioux Falls area: I didn't know much about country music.

Up until that point in my life, I didn't care for country music. I had grown up in the Seattle suburbs during the grunge era. As I got older I got into punk, ska, and hardcore. I was familiar with pop, electronica, and hip-hop... but not with country. When Bekah and I started dating, she listened to nothing but country music. I was into alternative and hard rock. Rather than argue over what to listen to when we were together, we compromised on rap and R&B. So I entered the entertainment industry a little stunted - especially for working in a Midwest community in South Dakota.

Thankfully, my first gig was a baptism by fire kind of introduction to country music. There were clues that I was getting in over my head. The group that hired me was the Yankton Singles Club. Yankton is a small city along the Missouri River about an hour and a half south and west of Sioux Falls. But they weren't holding their event in Yankton; they were holding it in Gayville - a diminutive podunk hamlet a dozen miles east of Yankton. That was the first clue that I overlooked. The second clue was on the gig sheet where they listed off their music requests. It read: "We want a lot of country music and old time rock and roll. And by old time rock and roll, we mean Beach Boys. None of that Beatles stuff."

Knowing nothing of the area or the culture, I rationalized the location of a community center meant that I would expect a wide variety of ages attending the dance. I hadn't yet realized that the community center was the only building in Gayville that was big enough to house a social event. When I say that Gayville is a tiny town, I'm not kidding. There's a church, an elementary school, one bank, and a few bars. And the community center that lacked air conditioning. There isn't even a gas station. After I was done setting up my equipment, I was hot and thirsty. The only place in town where I could go get a soda was Wild Bill Cody's bar.

For this "singles" event, I assumed that I would be the youngest person in the room. I was only 24 at the time. But I wasn't prepared for how true that assumption would be. While I was expecting a bunch of 30 and 40 somethings that were either divorced or never married, what showed up were a bunch of 50 to 70 year olds that were widowed or divorced. After looking at the gig sheet and seeing the town as I drove in, I should have known.

But I learned a lot about country music that night. I discovered a few songs that I liked enough that they became regular tunes in my set lists. Those older than expected singles danced their hearts out with one exception. About two hours into the three hour gig, one of the club members came up and asked, "Do you have that song by Lee Greenwood, 'I'm Proud to be an American?' Do you know the song I'm talkin about?" I confirmed that I knew the song, looked through my gig book and found that I did have it. He asked for me to play it after the next song.

As requested, I got the song queued up. Faded out some Clint Black song that had been playing and faded in 'I'm Proud to be an American.' Then something weird happened. Everyone stopped dancing.

They formed two parallel lines down the length of the community center - both facing each other. Women on one side, men on the other. They all stood with implausibly perfect posture and saluted. They held the salute, standing motionless for the duration of the song.

I fumbled through my gig book trying to figure out what to play next. I kept thinking How do you follow that up? There is so much that could go wrong. A fast song could seem irreverent but a slow song could come across as a buzz kill and fail to get the crowd dancing again. I got another song queued within the last couple of bars of Lee Greenwood's patriotic tune and hit play just in time to keep the music going. Dancing resumed. And I drove away that night completely confused over what I just observed.

Go home, you're hungover

After moving to Coeur d'Alene, I got a job as a corporate trainer. My first class was filled with some memorable personalities, but none stood out more than Jon.

Jon cursed like a sailor, a habit he blamed on his time in the military. Even when he was self-censoring his obscenities, he talked like a gangsta wannabe. I'm sure if I talked to him about that, he would have blamed the military for that habit too. After all, he was a North Idaho boy. He was smart, but he was also cocky, flirtatious, and obnoxious. But he showed up and did the work that he needed to do. He was usually respectful toward me even if he wasn't respectful of anyone else.

He made it through training and passed his test. The last day of class was supposed to be review and a graduation party. That was the first day he didn't show up on time. He strolled in two hours late wearing dark shades and the hood to his sweatshirt pulled up over his head. I shouted, "Good morning, nice of you to join us," as he made his way into the classroom. I could see him grimace as I called out to him. When he sat down, he put his head down on the desk and wrapped his arms up over his head like he was trying to block out all sensory input. I yelled at him again, "What's wrong Jon?" He just groaned. I let the class go to break but kept him with me so that I could find out what was going on.

He admitted that he was hungover with what he though might be the worst hangover he had ever experienced. Through out the rest of class, I made an effort to talk louder than normal. Every time I addressed Jon, I shouted his name.

He finally got to the point where he couldn't stand it any more and asked, "Why do you got to keep yelling at me?"

"Well," I said, "Either you can let me give you crap for the rest of the day, or I can send you up to talk to HR about showing up to work hungover. Your choice."

He chose to let me continue giving him crap.

The next three stories that I'll inevitably tell to anyone that hangs out with me enough are stories that have made it into the blogosphere in one form or another.

Shadow of the Locust

There was that one time that I hung out at a rap concert with Sony and Traa from P.O.D. You can find that story HERE.

Pizza Delivery Driver vs. The Town Drunk

A few years ago, my sister-in-law asked for stories that she could post on her blog. I gave her THIS ONE, a story that reinforces the idea that guns and drunk people should not mix.

The Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Burger King Security Guard

The friends that I hung out with when I was younger were mostly church kids. We didn't drink or smoke or do drugs. We didn't do much to get in trouble. But when we did, we made sure that it was epic. Like the time a security guard jumped on my car. Why was there a security guard at Burger King? And why did he jump on my car? You can read about it HERE.

For those of you that know me in real life, you've probably heard at least one of those stories. If not, just wait. It will happen.


What we love about Mom

For Mother's Day, this blog will be authored by my kids.

Three things we love about our mom:

Christian -
1. I love that she's very nice.
2. She likes to do crafts with us.
3. (One more thing? Just one more? OK.) She is a good helper.

Zu -
1. She gives me hugs.
2. She loves me.
3. I like that she makes me feel better.

JJ -
1. I like he when she lets me play with her.
2. She takes me to special places.
3. I like going with her to the store.


An appreciation of teachers

In honor of National Teacher Day, I thought I'd recognize a few important figures from my past. Granted, I wasn't a good student. It wasn't due to a shortage of knowledge, ability, or understanding - I lacked effort. Coupled with an above average IQ and you have a dangerous concoction of a kid that never does his homework but aces all the tests. Yeah, I was that student. If I wasn't interested, I didn't try.

But there were a few teachers that challenged me. Their classes were the ones that pushed me to make an effort. These are the teachers who had the greatest impact in my life.

Mrs. Wilson.
When I was in elementary school, the MSD had a program called Enhanced Learning. It was a class held one day a week for the smartest students in Marysville. Eligibility was determined through IQ testing and at the start of my third grade year, I tested high enough to qualify. Four days a week I would attend my normal class, and one day I would go to EL. This continued through fifth grade. We didn't study the typical elementary subjects. Our topics ranged from the National Parks, to bridge engineering and construction, to Greek mythology, to Rube Goldberg machines. Mrs. Wilson taught that class; she might be the kindest and most gentle of any teacher to stand in front of any of my classes, but that gentleness was tempered by a no-nonsense approach to education that would not accept excuses. She was the first teacher to treat me like a person. Before her, teachers either saw me as a problem kid or as a lovable but precocious nuisance. Enhanced Learning followed Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels and everything we studied had to go through that process of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, syntheses, and evaluation. Under Mrs. Wilson's guidance we explored the joys of learning as a desired activity instead of a rigorous necessity of school. She fostered cooperative effort as much as individual achievement. She introduced me to video games (The Oregon Trail) and is the only teacher that ever encouraged me to learn to type. She kept telling me I'd be able write faster on a computer than I ever would by hand. She is probably to blame for my love of literature and my drive to learn new things just for the sake of satiating curiosity. It was in her classroom where I was most successful.

Once I made the transition into middle school, things changed. While the other kids from my enhanced learning class went on to be honor roll students, I struggled with bulling. My nerdier tendencies became more apparent. In Mrs. Wilson's class, my quirkiness was accepted - maybe even encouraged. But in the halls of middle school and junior high, those eccentricities made me an outcast. Gone were the protections and motivations of Mrs. Wilson's classroom. If the rest of my education experience followed the model involved with Enhanced Learning, I would probably have been a much better student.

Mr. Taylor.
Once I found myself the target of bullies, I was desperate to find an outlet. I found that in art. Mr. Taylor was the junior high art and journalism teacher. He was also the faculty adviser for the yearbook staff and school paper. He was a large and jolly man who could see the positive aspects of almost anything, including me. There were other teachers in my junior high who invested in me as a student, that truly believed I was capable of excelling if I only applied myself. But Mr. Taylor was the first teacher that ever invested in my talent. He was the first teacher that saw a special talent inside me. When I walked into his classroom, I felt that there was something there that was worth far more than a grade. I put more effort into his art classes than I ever did in any of my other classes.

We drew landscapes and still life, caricatures and cartoons. He made us draw our hands, wadded up pieces of paper, maps, and the dilapidated barn that sat beyond the chain link fence and thorn bushes on the east side of the school. In his class, I drew an anthropomorphic head of lettuce and a stippled zebra. At the end of ninth grade, he kept much of my work from the previous year to enter into an art show over the summer. His request gave me further validation that I was capable of creating something great. That was my last art class. After junior high, my interests shifted more to music and theater and I stopped drawing. Due to a lack of practice, I've lost much of my artistic skill. But I know it's there somewhere thanks to Mr. Taylor. Now my son is turning into a budding artisan and I hope that someone like Mr. Taylor steps into Christian's life.

Herr Hansen.
If you couldn't deduce from the title "Herr," Herr Hansen taught high school German. Or, ahem... Er lehrte Deutsch. His classes were the most fun you would have all day, and you'd sound like an angry drunk while doing it. His class was the one class I never skipped; if I did, I'd miss something epic. It could be stories from his college days in Deutschland, or stories of Herr serving as the official interpreter for the Marysville Polizei, or the day we ate Deutsch Schokolade, or someone's Geburtstag (which was always honored with a Partei as long as someone brought their Lieblings-Kuchen). The best days were the days we played Schlachtschiff or sent emails to our Brieffreund in Deutschland. On sunny days, Herr would shout out "Oh, helle," anytime someone opened the door to our windowless classroom. Herr made learning memorable. Even when an avalanche trapped our charter bus on Stevens Pass while returning from the Christmas Lighting Festival in Leavenworth, we still had outrageous fun. All teachers should approach their work with Herr's exuberance.

Unfortunately, few people take German in high school. Most of my peers chose French or Spanish for their foreign language credits. The only other person that I could use to practice my German speaking was my brother (who delivered the Kuchen on my Geburtstag every year). But even he was out of the habit of sprechen Deutsch. Now days, most of what I remember are simple phrases, insults, vulgarities, and nonsensical gibberish. Hallo, ich heiße Nic. Ich mag Essen. Wo ist die Toilette? Du bist eine lahme Ente oder eine dicke Kuh. Was tut Ihnen weh? Ihr Kopf? Was ist Das? Ihre Hosen sind hässlich. Es tut mir leid. Ich liebe dich. Mein Hund und meine Katze trinken einander Milch.

Mr. Wold
I don't remember many other students listing Wold as one of their favorite teachers. As the speech, communications, and debate teacher, most kids feared his class. While most of the other students dreaded public speaking, I craved it. Or, at least I did in Wold's class. Mr. Wold taught me that I have a voice, and that I actually have something worth saying. He gave me the liberty to speak on whatever topic I wanted to talk about - as long as it fit the style of speech we were presenting that week. I took Speech/Comm as much as MPHS would allow. After I maxed out those credits, I returned as Mr. Wold's teacher's assistant. Funny, not many other students volunteered to be his TA. He trusted me enough that he gave me permission to forge his signature, which I used to my advantage once senioritis set in. If I wanted to skip a class, I'd write my self a note with Wold's signature. I skipped a lot of classes my senior year but didn't have any absences.* Thank you Mr. Wold.

His name wasn't Mr. K, but that's what we all called him. His signature was even a circle around the letter K. He taught theater, so there was a bit of whimsy in his educational style. He also taught American History, to which he applied the same passion as he demonstrated when directing our after school plays and spring musicals. K embodied the importance of the arts in education. He also rewarded creativity. He poured his heart into every student that walked through his door, whether they enrolled in Drama thinking it would be an easy A, or if they were there because they wanted to act.

As the Drama teacher, his classroom was the biggest in the school: the auditorium. Many of my best memories from high school happened in that auditorium. All night set painting parties, singing, dancing, awkward monologues and auditions, reading the graffiti written under the lip of the stage, fumbling around in the dark behind the curtains before a show, broken props, sword fighting, inappropriate costume changes, practical jokes, improv comedy games, and more laughter than I would ever be able to chronicle here. I left that auditorium wiser and more mature than I was when I entered. Years later, I recognize the fruits of K's labor. On the surface, he was teaching us about projection, enunciation, stage presence, lighting, sound, makeup, and theatricality, but in hindsight I can see that he was teaching us more. He was instilling life lessons that would endure beyond his classes and would last longer than our high school career. Through K, I learned how to be myself by learning to be someone else.

* Despite skipping more classes during the second semester of my senior year, it is also the only semester during my time in school where I got a 4.0 GPA. It might appear that I was a slacker, but I was actually working harder then than I ever had before.


Road trippers

Summer is almost upon us. It is the season for travel. I've experienced some memorable road trips - some of which I've written about before. Some are stories I have yet to tell. While I am not a big fan of summer, the season does endow me with a sense of wanderlust.

But not all drives end with a fixed point. Sometimes, the purpose for the road is the journey itself. I'd like to make some of those excursions at some point during my life. Here are five trips I'd like to make before I die.

1. Driving the entire length of US 101. From Olympia north to Sequim, around the Olympic Peninsula, then the full length of the Washington and Oregon coasts, finally south through California to LA.

2. The E10. From the Swedish coastal town of Luleå through Lapland and Abisko National Park into Nordland, Norway. The highway then rambles and twists through the Lofoten archipelago, truncating in the village, Å.

3. Auckland to Christchurch. With a detour along the west coast of New Zealand's South Island.

4. South African tour. From Johannesburg to Durban, then follow the southern coast to Cape Town.

5. A meandering trip through southern Europe that traverses the two highest paved mountain passes in the Alps. Beginning in Geneva, Switzerland, head south into France then west toward Italy. Follow the the D902 over Col de l'Iseran and finally taking the Fréjus Tunnel into Italy. Keep going east through Turin and Milan. From there, head north into the mountains to Stelvio Pass. After the pass, head north to Munich, and then east to Vienna.


Ice Cream!!!

The Inland NW has been taken over by something that looks a lot like summer. Blinding sun suspended crystalline sky. Soft breezes providing respite from what would otherwise be an unforgiving warmth.

When it gets this hot outside, I crave two things. Air conditioning, and ice cream.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I don't buy much ice cream. In fact, we don't often eat dessert in our house.

I don't always pick up ice cream when I go to the grocery store, but when I do, these are the 5 flavors I'm most likely to purchase.

1. Cookies & Cream: my standard default.
2. Mint chocolate chip: my wife doesn't care much for minty scents and flavors so this one is a rare treat.
3. Bubble gum: But not all bubble gum ice cream was created equal. The best that I've ever found is at Snow Goose Produce between Conway and La Conner.
4. Butterfinger: Guilty pleasure ice cream.
5. Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate or Cherry Garcia: they are essentially the same thing.

Unfortunately, the only ice cream I have in the house is a simple vanilla bean.


Seattle through my kids' eyes

A couple of years ago, I wrote a list of those things that you must do if you're a tourist in Seattle for a few short days. But what if you're there for longer?

That's where I grew up. While I will probably never live there again, my heart will always be in that city. No matter where I go, the Emerald City still remains my favorite place in the world. At least to visit. I want my kids to see the same Seattle that I once knew. While my previous list list focused (mostly) on Seattle proper, I want my kids to experience more than just the urban and touristy aspects of Seattle.

Here are ten things I want my kids to see and do in the greater Seattle area.

1. Ferry trip back to Seattle after dark. This was number 9 on my other list of things to do in Seattle. But that first sight of the lit up skyline as you ride into Elliott Bay is one of the most inspiring sights I've ever seen.

2. Tacoma Narrows. The bridges there are astonishing works of engineering and the nearby park is a great place to picnic.

3. The Pacific Science Center. I know I could spend weeks in that place and never get bored. There's at least a full day's worth of adventure there for my kids, if not more.

4. Jetty Island. The soft sand and shallow slope of the beach would be an ideal place for my water loving kids to play and relax.

5. Deception Pass. This bridge is another engineering feat. It's the heart of a state park that has endless opportunities for activity and some of the most scenic vistas in the area.

6. Fort Casey. My family spent many summer days at Fort Casey. It was usually our last stop for day trips to Whidbey Island before taking the ferry back to Mukilteo and driving home. The historic bunkers and artillery are treasures to explorer - and the perfect location for a Super Soaker war.

7. Dungeness Spit. This was a place of awe and wonder when I was young. Between the wildlife refuge and the five and a half mile trek out to the lighthouse, there is much for my kids to enjoy.

8. Wild Waves (formerly Enchanted Village). This is to Federal Way what Silverwood is to North Idaho. That was a place of magic when I was a kid.

9. Paine Field. This is home to Boieng's manufacturing and the largest building in the world. The Future of Flight Aviation Center would bring out the dreamers in my kids.

10. Mt. Pilchuck. This mountain was the place that saved my life. I've written about it before. Now, as a parent, I long to go back with my kids.


More on games

As I mentioned yesterday, I enjoy video games. But I also enjoy table top games - especially party games. I love those games where the number of players doesn't really matter and the rules can be adapted to fit your current party needs. Those games that don't consume hours from start to finish. (Am I the only one that participated in a marathon game of Risk that lasted over a week?) Those games that can be played with a minimal amount of strategy, planning, or explanation.

When it comes to party games, these five are my favorites.

I never would have guessed that matching pronouns to a noun could be so entertaining.


My father-in-law always wins this game. Always. He has a prodigious vocabulary that is like a hurricane, destroying everything in its path.


I am really good at this game. I won't say why.


A spin off from Cranium, this game is all about ranking your favorite things... when other people guess your favorite things.


I'm cheating on this last one because Uno isn't really a party game. However, it's not really Uno that I consider one of my favorites - but a variant taught to us by a friend. He says his family invented the rules and they call it "Killer Uno." The best way that I can describe it is that it's like combat Uno.


Honorable mention....

I can't call this one of my favorites, because I've never played it. Which is a shame.
From what I've been told, this game is a lot like Apples to Apples, but more demented. If you own this game, you must bring it over. I'll supply the chips and salsa and we will play.


Confessions of a former video game junkie

There are two things that should be apparent in my life. First, my family is a busy family. Second, I am a giant nerd. As a member of geek culture, I enjoy gaming.

However, as a side effect of the first thing I mentioned above, I don't have much time for video games. Or, I should say, I don't have as much of an opportunity to play. Not that long ago, I wasted a lot of time playing video games. However, my family never owned a console when I was growing up. I often felt like the only kid that didn't own a Nintendo. Video games never made it into my house until I was able to save up and but the original Playstation.

After that, it was game on. Back then, most of the guys I hung out with also owned Playstations. If we weren't playing nerts or poker, we were engaged in PS1 fighting tournaments, rotating between Bushido Blade, Soulcalibur, Marvel vs Capcom, Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi, and Tekken.

However, it is the following ten games that has sucked away the most amount of my gaming life.

First up is this gem. 
As I mentioned before, my family didn't have an NES. But my friends who had Nintendos all had this game. I preferred Excitebike over Mario Bros because I kinda sucked at Mario. Excitebike was greater entertainment that lasted longer, especially with the feature that let you create your own tracks.

The summer after graduating high school, I spent a lot of time at the house of a friend that had a Super Nintendo. He had two games, Mortal Kombat, and DK Country.
Not only was I terrible playing Mario Bros, I generally sucked when it came to platformers in general. Donkey Kong was different. This is the first platform game that I beat without any cheat codes. For a long time, I considered that feat as my crowning achievement.

When I got the Play Station, this was one of the first two games I purchased.
Jet Moto was a crazy cocktail of jet skis, motocross, and the X-Games. At the time, I thought this was the pinnacle of video game graphics. I had never played a game that gave me such a sense of speed or placed that knot in my gut when missing a jump and my character fell into a bottomless pit.

This is the other game that I purchased with my PS1.
Biker gangs and road racing, with a little bit of a fist fight while cruising down the highway at 100 MPH. The crashes in this game were over-exaggerated and hilarious as the rider would be launched into the air, fly further than humanly possible, and finally plummet to the ground where it would roll and bounce like a rag doll. This game also had a killer soundtrack with songs from The Tea Party, Soundgarden, Sugar Ray, and The Mermen. Somehow, I even hoodwinked my dad into playing this game.

Then came the era of the X-Box and the standard-bearer of all FPS games.
This. So much this. This is the reason I got an X-Box. I can't even begin to count the late nights I wasted with Steve, Tommy, Nate, and Lance playing this. Or the hours battling my father-in-law over the home network. We even built a profile for Christian when he was just a couple of months old. Bekah made his armor pink just to tease me. The sequels have mostly found a way to improve upon perfection, but the first still remains the Halo I played the most.

The 18 year old version of myself that thought the graphics in Jet Moto and Road Rash were amazing would have had his mind blown by this game.
The grown up version of me found this to be the holy grail of racing games. Even IGN called it "sweet electronic crack." It removed the complexity from other racing games like Midnight Club or Need for Speed, but it kept much of the same excitement with the addition of glorious crashes and automobile carnage being an integral part of the game play. There was even a mode where the sole purpose was to see how much monetary damage you could cause in a single wreck. This game also featured an awesome soundtrack with Franz Ferdinand, Sugarcult, Ash, and Local H.

Do you have an iPhone? If you do, I can almost guarantee you got this from the app store.
So, um... yeah... I've played a lot of Angry Birds. I don't always play casual games. But when I do, I play Angry Birds.

The next game has displayed the concepts of the real laws of physics better than any game I've ever seen.
It's also crazy addictive and riddled with absurdist humor. My brother-in-law and I played through the full co-op mode of Portal 2 in a single day. Now I've gone back to revisit the first game again and again. This game also gave us a phrase that I'll occasionally slip into casual conversation: "The cake is a lie."

Another game that my bother-in-law and I started was this.
However, we got nowhere near finishing this game. It's just too big for one sitting. But the unique artistic style  of the game and the mashup between FPS and RPGs was genius. My father-in-law and I also played through a portion of it, and I finally played the whole way through in a solo campaign. Even after beating it, Borderlands has a high replayability that I've enjoyed.

The last game really needs no explanation but I'll give one anyways. Zombies.
The glurping of a boomer, the smoker's cough, the screech of a hunter, the rumbling of an approaching tank. These sounds have been welded into my memory. Those sounds still instill a sense of dread in me when I play today. There are a lot of Zombie games out there but in my mind, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are the best available. And the farmhouse level scared the snot out of me. Creepiest games I've played since the original Silent Hill.


Honorable Mention
Through most of my formative years, the arcade was a prominent feature in every mall. My dad would frequently take Aaron and I to the arcade in the Everett Mall to kill some time. Ms. Pac-Man was my dad's game of choice. Not me though. My ADD prevented me from being drawn to the same game over and over again. However, my pocket full of quarters never lasted as long as the lone quarter my dad dropped into the Ms. Pac-Man cabinet. Inevitably, my coins ran out and Dad would still be gripping Ms. Pac-Man's joystick. So I would watch. I didn't play much of this game, but countless hours from my childhood were spent watching my dad eat dots and avoid ghosts.


A month of lists

Welcome to the month of May. I'm ready to get back into the habit of writing. Frequently. But I'm taking the lazy man's approach to daily writing. Every day this month, I'm going to be writing a list of something. Three things, five things, ten things, Thing 1 and Thing 2.

To start off this month of lists, I'm going to drop some hints. My birthday happens to land in the middle of this month (hint). If you're interested in contributing to my merriment (hint), here are five things I want for my birthday (hint).

This hoodie.
Which can be purchased HERE.

This wall decoration from People of the Second Chance.
Which can be purchased HERE.

Tickets to go see this movie.
This even comes out on my birthday. It's as if Paramount Pictures had me in mind when they selected the release date.

My X-Box. Fixed. Shortly after I got it, it did this.

Plane tickets to Nashville and a hotel to stay for the Storyline Conference in October.
It's put on by Don Miller. I love his books and have one of these conferences on my bucket list.