Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Event Review - Another Train Ride

A year ago, I decided to mix things up here and include event reviews in my rotation. It was an attempt on my part to get away from the three-a-week grind of trying to play a near inhuman number of games, and an experiment to see if I could actually go and do something different every week. It worked great for a while - I reviewed whiskey tastings, fashion shows in the mall, geocaching and model train shows. I was out doing all kinds of things.

A lot can change in a year.

My wife has been getting progressively more ill. Doctors can't tell if she has fibromyalgia or lupus, and her first doctor put her on a dose of steroids so high her hair started falling out. When the new doctor took her off those steroids, she was able to enjoy three new wonderful sensations - she was still suffering from the effects of the drug overdose, but she was able to add to that the wonders of withdrawal symptoms, all while experiencing all the lovely symptoms that the steroids were masking in the first place. She's been so ill for so long that I have almost forgotten what it was like when she was healthy. I don't get out much any more. I play with my game group on Saturdays, and other than that, I'm either at work or at home. Some days, she's well enough to cook dinner. Most days, I either go get dinner from some local fine dining establishment such as Jack in the Box or Taco Bell, or I cook, in which case we have grilled cheese sandwiches.

This grinding battle with chronic illness is starting to show. Obviously, it's showing on my wife, who is a total trooper about it, even while she's too tired and sore to move, but it's starting to show up in my life, too. I've been getting really slack about posting three times a week, and several times my 'updated three times a week' tagline has been a bit of an exaggeration. It's tough to get away and spend an hour or so writing an article when the dishes are piling up, the dogs are hungry, and I need to be handy to make a run to the drugstore, and even if I have the time, there are too many times when I'm just not feeling it.

But today was State Fair day at work, and I actually went somewhere and did something. As I did a year ago, I gathered some co-workers and took the train from the office to the fair. It was a different experience, but it was still a blast.

One of the things that mixed it up for us this year was that we had a different group. Last year, three of us decided to take the train. This year, word of our success got around (possibly because I spent a couple weeks walking around to people and saying, 'hey, take the train with us'), and so this year, we had a group nearly a dozen strong. Last year we met the crazies. This year, we brought our own.

It's amazing how completely incapable grown people can be. I budgeted the time, printed the train schedule, and calculated our departure from the office to allow us plenty of time to get to the station. Unfortunately, I failed to make allowances for the fact that we had women with us. Between bathroom breaks, conversations in the hallway, and having to run back to their desks because they forgot something (I contend they may have left their brains in their chairs after they finished sitting on them), we managed to miss the train.

Happily, DART light rail runs every twenty minutes, and they had special event trains, so while we were not as early as I had planned, we still made it to the fair in time for the group picture that proved to all of our supervisors that we had not simply left the office and driven directly home. Then we had time for corn dogs and the car show.

I don't intend to discuss the Texas State Fair, because it is still one of the least enjoyable things I can imagine attending. Maybe executions would be less entertaining, but at least we could sit down. Walking for what adds up to miles to sample various fried dishes that counteract every exercise I've done for the last two weeks is not a good time (unless you are a particular connoisseur of edibles prepared in vats of boiling grease).

Instead of the fair, I'm going to talk again about the train. Like I said, this time we brought our own wackadoos, including one woman who insisted that she should be able to go up to the cockpit and talk to the pilot. I attempted to point out that we were on a train, not an airplane, and that she could not have plastic wings to pin to her lapel, but she still waved down the driver as he attempted to board the train so that she could ask him if he had been drinking.

Of course, just because we had lunacy present in our own group does not mean we couldn't find interesting people along the way. After a brief transfer in downtown Dallas, we were joined by a group of slow people. Not slow like broken-legs slow, I mean slow like a little bit dull. They were exceptionally friendly, except the ones who were scared of people. They didn't have a handler or anything, so I assume they managed to get by on their own, but there's no way this group was ever going to win a Pulitzer. I didn't mind, though - we had a great talk, and laughed all the way to the fair. Well, most of us laughed. The guy who looked like Peter Boyle just twitched and scratched the back of his head.

There were, unfortunately, no clearly insane people, no art students making kiddie books that read like acid trips or drunk men who couldn't remember their own children. The lovably dopey group was the closest we got to an interesting encounter, not counting the fourteen times the loopy dame from the office asked what exit was ours (never mind that the station was actually called the Fair Park station, and was announced as the final destination every two minutes). It was a remarkably sedate ride, for being public transportation.

The ride back was even quieter, because somehow, the group that included that crazy lady got lost as soon as we took the picture, and so only two of us made the return trip. But it got me to thinking on the way back, and enjoying a little introspection. Train rides are good for that, I guess.

Before you start groaning on the inside, no, I am not going to spout off some 'life is too short' bull crap. Life is too long. Life is a freaking whip, and you have to grab it by the ballsack and squeeze until it spits out a little bit of happiness, and in the meantime, you get behind on the mortgage and have to bail your kids out of jail. So long story short, my deep thoughts did not include any perspective on seizing the day or enjoying the little things.

Instead, I thought about how I haven't done things I meant to do this year. Sure, I might have reasons, but as a high school teacher once told me, there may be plenty of reasons, but there are no excuses. He was talking about why we might miss a big assignment, and besides, he was a dick who otherwise made my senior year of high school far more painful than it had to be, but he was right about that one thing. I may have reasons that I haven't done what I said I would do, but I don't have any excuses.

Today's train ride reminded me of all the stuff I was going to try this year. I still haven't been to a karaoke bar. I haven't explored any derelict buildings, or shot authentic six-shooters, or even just gone down to the park and played Frisbee golf. I've allowed my reasons to become excuses, and I'm not even trying any more. And the more I avoid doing interesting things, the longer life gets.

That's the funny thing about life - it's only too short if you make it that way. If you're actually enjoying it, that's when it's short. Life is long and ugly when you let it drag you down and beat you like an unwanted stepchild. If life is too short, you're doing it right.

So I'm going to go back and make life short again. I can't promise that I'll be able to find something every weekend, but by God, I mean to try.


Mike H. said...

All the best to your wife

Unknown said...

Hope everything goes as good as it can... and your reviews are still amazing. Best wishes to your wife.

Phoenix said...

I hope she gets well soon. We certainly won't mind the lack of three reviews a week if it helps you spend more time with her.

Peer said...

I agree: All the Best to your wife and if you cant manage 3 reviews a month because of her illness, then so be it.

Sharon said...

I can put up with slow or no updates for a while - do what you've got to do Matt. I don't need to be buying any more games for a while yet (one of these days I'll show y'all a picture of the game shelves...)

David Hassell said...

I wish all the best to you and your family during this difficult period. I have always enjoyed reading your reviews and other opinion pieces, but never expected any specific timetable on these. Quality > Quantity.

Anonymous said...

I think you're the best board games reviewer throughout the Net. But games are games, and family is family. Wish the best to you and your wife!

andrew wodzianski said...

I read one of the best blog posts of all time earlier this week, and it was yours. I've been thinking about 'life is too short' = 'doing it right' for the past several days. It has resonance man, so great job on writing out the equation for me.
All the best to your family.


Anonymous said...

Get yourself a pressure cooker.

Throw some vegetables, meat, and stock into the pressure cooker. It's an easy way to make stew - it's really not much more difficult than making a cheese sandwich.

Jur said...

Take care, Matt.

If you're wife is a trooper, she'll totally understand that you need to get out occassionally, just to keep sane. If she doesn't already tell you you should.

My suggestion for your next activity: cooking workshop. Not for building exquisite dinners, but for quick, easy and healthy ones. Because cheese sandwiches, man, that's just no diet.

You can have a simple vegetable soup, indian/thai curry or pasta on the table in 20 minutes.

It just lightens up your life