Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wall Street Kid

Mike and I make it a point to hang out two or three times a week doing a variety of no-cost activities that usually include movies and/or video games. Recently, Mike discovered an old Nintendo ROM ridiculously titled Wall Street Kid that we made fun of for a solid half hour before we sat down and seriously attempted to beat it.

The premise of Wall Street Kid is simple. Our title character is the only surviving heir of the recently deceased Mr. Bendict, whose estate is valued at over 600 billion dollars (or so the opening cartoon informs us in its Archie Comics animation style). You start with the paltry sum of half a million to invest in the stock market, build your fortune, pamper your sweetheart Prisilla, and carry on the Benedict standard of living. That means buying endless presents for your girlfriend, a nice million-dollar house, a yacht (we haven’t made it this far yet) and eventually the family castle back in Europe that our hero will no doubt use as a quaint vacation getaway.

The gameplay consists of you sitting in your office, reading the Wall Street Times (sic) and trading stocks like Reebucks Sneakers, Boing Airlines, ATNT Telephone, or Centipede Construction through your circa-1990 compact computer system (presumably a Yapple). The Times gives you information on hot stocks, which types of stocks are likely to rise, and humorous news articles such as muggers becoming patrons at the local shopping mall. You can also pass the day by exercising or spending quality time with your sweetheart (Going shopping with her takes up four hours. Please, kill me now). Smaller icons at the bottom of the screen let you obtain game help from Stanley (“Would you like me to explain the stock market to you for $500?”) or go over to Connie’s office where she’ll give you a hot investment tip and a blow job (not shown). Ridiculously, your initial goal is to double your money by the end of the first month so that you can afford that million-dollar home. It would be far too easy for our hero to simply rent a classy apartment in the city or buy some moderately-priced Long Island real estate—for that would go against the “Benedict standard of living” the lawyer alludes to in the opening scene; and this was the reason Mike and I lost the game.

Our spirits were further dampened after reading a walkthrough and numerous online reviews that emphasized how easy the game is. The secret to Wall Street Kid, it would seem, lies not in accumulating a diverse investment portfolio with losses spread out over a number of years, but in finding which stock will make you the most money in a given week and dumping every cent of your capital into it. Sadly, the game doesn’t allow you to engage in heavy drinking sessions with your office buddies or carry on steamy affairs reminiscent of Bob Slocum’s; but you will start to feel sick if you go too long without exercising, and Prisilla will leave you if she thinks that you’re neglecting her by devoting too much time to your work. (Much like the real office world, I imagine.) You can make Prisilla happy by buying her a nice dog or a Fairrari convertible, implying what really keeps the relationship alive.

Still, if Wall Street Kid is any indicator, the business world is a rough place where only the cleverest succeed—leaving the rest of us to drive off in our broken-down old Chryer automobiles and play Dr. Mario instead.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ian and Tiff Go For Pizza

A Play in One Act


22, tall, with glasses and dashing good looks.

23, short and soft-spoken.

17, female, blonde.

Various PARENTS, CHILDREN, and TEENAGERS, all non-speaking roles.

The scene is Sal’s Pizzeria, a small wood-paneled eatery in an outdated shopping plaza off of Main Street in Concord, New Hampshire. Several families sit eating at tables. Framed newspaper articles and photographs of past customers adorn one wall. A female CLERK, bored, stands behind the counter beneath a menu listing pizza and calzone toppings. It is nearing the end of the night. IAN and TIFF enter and approach the counter, IAN in mid-sentence.

IAN. If I’d known you had never been here we would have come sooner. The pizza’s almost as good as Ramunto’s, and the selection’s still superb.
Tiff stands silent. They study the menu.
IAN. (Cont) There’s only two of us, and I know you won’t eat much. Would you rather get slices, or order a full pizza and have lots of leftovers?
TIFF. (Shrugging) It doesn’t matter.
IAN. Let’s get a full pizza then. I could use lunch for tomorrow.
TIFF. All right.
IAN. What would you like for toppings?
TIFF. (As before) It doesn’t matter.
IAN. All right. (To CLERK) What’s the Sal’s Special?
CLERK. It’s got olives, onions, mushrooms, and green peppers.
IAN. That sounds great. What do you think? (Tiff makes a face in reply.) Or not. Do you see anything that you like?
TIFF. I don’t like a lot.
IAN. (Not giving up) But what do you like?
TIFF. Whatever you want is fine. I really don’t care.
IAN. (Scanning menu) How about garlic? The garlic pizza’s wicked strong; it’s great.
TIFF. (Disgusted) No thanks.
IAN. How about pineapple then? Do you like Hawaiian pizza?
TIFF. I like pineapple, just not on pizza.
IAN. (In disbelief) Have you ever tried it?
TIFF. Yes.
IAN. Do you have any other suggestions?
TIFF. I don’t really care.
IAN. Mushrooms?
TIFF. Yuck.
IAN. (Slightly frustrated) Why don’t you suggest something then?
TIFF. I don’t really have a preference.
IAN. (Searching for something simple) How about pepperoni? Tell me you like pepperoni?
TIFF. (Finally, deadpan) Pepperoni’s fine.
IAN. Success! Now, what about something else? Pepperoni and bacon go well together.
TIFF. That’s too much meat.
IAN. (Astounded) Too much meat? What’s wrong with too much meat? How can you have too much meat on a pizza?
TIFF. I’m sorry!
IAN. How about peppers? Do peppers and pepperoni go well together?
TIFF. When I said that I don’t like a lot, I mean that I don’t like a lot of toppings on one pizza.
IAN. I thought you meant that there weren’t many toppings that you liked at all. (The CLERK snickers)
TIFF. Well, that too.
IAN. You should have said so! (Starting all over again) Is there anything that you like with pepperoni?
TIFF. (As before) It doesn’t matter.
IAN. (Resisting the urge to be sarcastic) What about pepperoni and extra cheese? That’s simple. Would you like that?
TIFF. That’s fine.
IAN. (To CLERK, who is already writing) We’ll have that then, for here. And I’ll take that bottle of Moxie in the cooler. (To TIFF) What would you like?
TIFF: I’ll have a water.

They pay and IAN chooses a table in the center row. They sit in silence until IAN can no longer contain his frustration.

IAN. (Almost at a shout) There are so many good kinds of pizza here, and we just ordered the plainest kind imaginable! What was that all about!?
TIFF. (Ignoring his tone) It’s because I’m Irish. I like simple things.
IAN. Then you should have asked for potatoes! Why do you have to be so indecisive all the time? Is it that hard for you to say what kind of pizza you like? You could have just told me outright and saved us all that trouble! What do you do when you go somewhere alone and order a pizza?
TIFF. I usually just get cheese.


Monday, December 3, 2007

An Axe for the Frozen Sea

Last night I finished a collection of Franz Kafka's shorter works (I highly reccomend "The Metamorphosis;" it's a story for any young person who's ever woken up and realized that they might not be able to face the challenges ahead of them), and while his more complex work eludes me, I find other pieces of his writing chillingly perceptive. Most of his stories and aphorisms are about the havoc of bureaucracy or man's inferiority, while his personal writing reveals his understanding that he can only live fully through his writing. I've decided to quote a portion of Kafka's letter to Oskar Pollak dated January 27th, 1904, which struck a particular chord:

...I read Hebbel's diaries (some 1800 pages) all at once, whereas previously I had always just bitten out small pieces that struck me as insipid....I simply could not take a pen in hand during these days. Because when you're surveying a life like that, which towers higher and higher without a gap, so high you can scarcely reach it with your field glasses, your conscience cannot settle down. But it's good when your conscience receives big wounds, because that makes it more sensitive to every twinge. I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.

Ironically, I did not feel this way about a few of of Kafka's stories, but kept reading anyway. I won't attempt to mimic Kafka's description, but I agree that certain books do stir us like a disaster, and to feel that twinge within should be the goal of everyone who ever picks up a book and begins to read.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Mom's Name is Gail!

Cartoonishly bad writing always makes me laugh, possibly because I've seen so much of it and can tell when people aren't even trying. Often, all it takes is a second read-through to catch mistakes, and a little revision can go a long way. I always tell people (just as teachers have told me) to spend time listening to how the writing sounds; you can usually hear it if something's off. The story I'm working on now is about writing that may be technically sound, but totally misses the point in other ways; for every writer is oblivious to some aspect of their work.

Then of course, there's writing that's beyond all hope, which makes me laugh even harder. I can't take credit for this; it came from the NH State Testing manual that Mr. Armstrong showed us in Lit Comp and Critique sophomore year, and is an example of what a score of 1 out of 6 looks like. The prompt asks the reader to write about someone they respect, and I've paraphrased the shoddily written essay as best as I can remember:

The person I admire most is my Mom! My Mom's name is Gail! She respects me because I respect her, and she lets me do a lot of stuff! I guess that if she didn't respect me than I would still respect her because she is my Mom.

I really became interested in bad writing as a way of making people laugh when I took English Prose style, and Chris Miller gave us the assignment to turn in the worst writing that we possibly could. I wrote this piece based on the following imaginary AP English essay prompt: "From a novel or play of literary merit, choose two characters who the author sets up be similar but instead reveals to be ironically different." I think that by exagerrating these kinds of mistakes it becomes easier to notice the shoddiness in our own work, or that of others.



A Comparison Between "The Dude" and The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski, a film by the Coen brothers, is a film about a guy named “The Dude” who is really lazy, drives a beat up car, has no money and really loves to bowl. He has the same name as Jeffrey Lebowski a millionaire, who is in a wheelchair and helped a lot of kids in the inner city. However, I think that even though they have the same name, the two Lebowskis could not possibly be more different from each other.

First off, there is “The Dude.” “The Dude” is really lazy and doesn’t seem to have a job, this is evidenced by his writing a check for creamer in the first scene in the movie. If he had had the money to pay for the creamer, he wouldn’t have had to have written a check to pay for it. Then there is his car. “The Dude” drives an old Ford Torino that is rusted light yellow and barely runs. He likes it, and does not want to get another car; even if he could afford one. Of note is his rug, which is peed on by the Treehorn thugs in the first scene of the movie. “The Dude” has to right away get rid of the rug and cannot afford to buy another one; that is why he goes to Jeffrey Lebowski (the millionaire) in the first place.

Then there is his friends. “The Dude” has two friends named Walter and Donny who love to bowl, in fact, they love bowling so much that they have their own bowling team. They also compete in league tournaments and are involved in a tournament when the movie begins. Donny is quietest, but Walter is very loud and frequently carries a firearm around with him that he is not afraid to pull out during league play. Walter also drives a beat up van, and it is his idea to take the money and replace it with “the ringer” full of his own dirty underwear to throw off the bridge in place of the real briefcase of money; which they will keep and spend for themselves. Unfortunately, this plan does not work, and “The Dude” is angry at Walter and doesn’t want him involved in his life any more. But he keeps coming back, which is why he likes to hang out with “The Dude.” In fact, he also smashed Little Larry’s red sports car on the street with a baseball bat in the homework scene, and he didn’t even check to see if it was really his. He is really “The Dude”s crazy out of control friend.

However, the other Jeff Lebowski couldn’t possibly be more different. He is an old man who is in a wheelchair, and he also fought in Korea, where he lost his legs in the war. He also established the Lebowski Achievers Institute where he helped a lot of kids, which made him very rich. However, he ran into some financial problems and needed to launder money from the Institute, so he decided to trick “The Dude” into losing the money from the kidnapping. He wanted to easily pin the money theft on “The Dude” and keep it all for himself. Just the fact that he would do something so terrible is proof that he is a dishonest person. He also orders “The Dude” into his limo after he gets the toe in the mail from the nihilists, and he tricks ‘The Dude” into thinking that its really from her. He is very rich and very dishonest; and could not possibly be more different then “The Dude.”

So, in conclusion, though both Lebowskis may have the same name, they couldn’t possibly be more different. One is a messy slob who likes to bowl and goes by a nickname all the time, while the other is a rich millionaire who would steal money and pin it on other people. This adds a bit of flavor to the movie, and I think that it is a better movie because of it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Post-College Abyss

I’ve been plagued by worries about what lies ahead ever since I’ve graduated. I’m not going to be cliché and say that I don’t know what I want to do with my life, because that’s not true—rather, what’s thrown me off most is the loss of structure now that for the first time in seventeen years I don’t have formal education to plan my life around. For a long time I’ve wanted to face the future and explore what the world has to offer, even though this is disorienting and scary. I don’t want to do something completely off the deep end like some people I know have done, but the idea of having adventures and trying new things resonates strongly with my situation at the moment.

However, what also bothers me is the fear that things might not work out now that I’m out of college; though it may appear that way on the surface. I can’t explain exactly what I mean by this; but everywhere I go I feel like I’m surrounded by important-sounding jobs that don’t sound like they’d be very stimulating to work at, even though they provide the security and benefits post-graduates need—or so I’ve been told. But would I really be happy working a job like that just for the security? I don’t think so. I believe that no matter what you’re doing, you should be living your life in a dynamic way. It’s hard to explain this to people, especially when friends ask me if I’ve “thought about what I want to do,” as if this meant making a concrete decision about how I’ll spend the next fifty years working to achieve various financial goals . I love to write, but fitting this in with earning a living, leading the life I want to, and freeing myself from the shackles of debt is something I’m still working to figure out.

I think most people avoid the kind of search that I and others I know are on because it’s just easier to pick a career and stick with it as a way of obtaining security. That way, you can define yourself through your job and impress people regardless of how insignificant that job may be . But what you do doesn’t have to define who you are ; often, a job is just a way of supporting yourself, accessing certain resources, or just a way of trying something new . My friends from Bennington, for instance, are working a wide range of different jobs that don’t necessarily say anything about them as people, and that’s all right.

Randall once told me that I believed in mind over matter, and that all I had to do was put the right perspective on something to improve my situation. I think I’m finally on my way to embracing that mindset with this new problem, once I’ve dispelled the notion that people see me as a failure. I don’t know why I let the stupidest shit get to me—I just finished a job where I got to do a lot of fun things and I’m involved with other projects that make me feel rewarded while providing adequate compensation. People I know are have done tremendously creative, interesting things, and these types of endeavors are something I can’t lose sight of.

A lot of writers have had a variety of experiences and haven’t just focused on one career, which has shown me that there’s no one way to lead your life. Some writers moved out to the middle of the woods to work on a first novel, others worked in business for years before discovering their first great idea, some played professional backgammon, and still others spent time developing successful careers as lawyers, art critics, or even composers; obtaining knowledge and experience that found its way into their fiction. There’s a world filled with possibilities for people willing to look for them—and there’s no reason to be afraid.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Other People's Blogs

The Next Blog button, which sits at the very top of this page next to the search bar, moves the daring internet surfer to a random blog within the Blogspot network. It took me a little while to figure this out; originally I imagined that all of the blogs were arranged in a line that you could move along with this button like the old webrings you used to see on people's themed fan pages. The first time I tried this button I found a cheap porn banner, and thought it funny that anyone who clicked this button from my page would be greeted with a graphic image I find unsuitable to describe here. I've since used the button to find all sorts of wierd stuff, but nothing really worthwhile yet. See for yourself:

Believe me when I tell you that this is the most exciting blog you will ever read

The name says it all

Is there any logic to this guy's choice of news?

Check out the hilarious list of porn on the right

One man's adventures naviagting the world of online poker

The latest in mainstream entertainment

This one is actually pretty cool, imagine The Motorcycle Diaries in Africa

Teenage reading material. He reviews Watership Down a few enries from the top.

Stop me if my blog ever becomes like this one

A miscellaneous assortment of everything, with subtitles

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Safe Kitchen Sex

I went back to visit Bennington this past weekend and had a really fun time. Aside from Leigh house being a lot crazier, the place hasn't changed as much as I was afraid it would (that was comforting). Rather than chronichling the entire weekend, I chose a single funny moment to write about.

I was sitting in the Leigh kitchen with a friend boiling some ramen when Mark marched over to the shelf with a determined look on his face and proceeded to remove all the rubber gloves from the safe sex kit.* I asked him what he was doing and he said that he wasn’t sure. “Isn’t it weird that they keep rubber gloves in the safe sex kit?” he said as he dangled one in front of him. “What do you think they’re for?”

I explained their purpose to him in terms of a baseball euphemism.

“That’s disgusting,” Mark said, still dangling the glove. “What better way to set a romantic mood than by snapping on a rubber glove before pleasuring a woman?”

My friend (strangely enough) was silent during this exchange.

The rest of the bag was filled with condoms, lubricant, and white Durex instruction manuals. Mark unfolded one of the manuals (which appeared suspiciously long until we realized it included multiple languages) and pointed out the comically abstract drawing of a penis in the instruction diagram. “This is ridiculous,” he said, “who in their right mind can’t figure out how to put on a condom?”

“I’m sure some people get confused,” I replied, giving the matter some serious thought. “But then again, don’t most people get shown how to put a condom on a banana in high school?”

“Not a banana,” Mark said, getting excited again. “In my high school we had this Mexican guy who lectured our safe sex class while drinking an Orangina and waving his other hand back and forth. [Mark demonstrated by limply flicking his wrist.] At the end he pulled a condom out of his pocket and put it on over the entire Orangina bottle. Afterwards he told us never to worry about the condom not being big enough.”

“Did he drink out of the Orangina afterwards?”

“I don’t remember,” Mark said. He had gone back to the shelf in the midst of his story and began to carry out some sudden task with uncharacteristic diligence. Amelia and I watched as he tore open a condom, hurled the wrapper towards the garbage but landed it in the hallway instead, and unwrapped the condom over a small, fat olive oil bottle he had grabbed. It took some effort to get the condom around the curve of the bottle, but once past this hurdle he slid it easily down to the base. He admired his handiwork and pointed out that the condom was invisible save for the sperm-catching tip above the bottle’s cap. I told him he should leave it there.

Mark laughed hysterically at this proposition but pulled the condom off the bottle and threw it away. As if it were a natural extension of our conversation, he grabbed an Astroglide packet and squirted thick, gooey wads of lube all along the cap and the sides, then opened another condom and reinserted it over the bottle tighter than before. “You have to get all the air bubbles out,” he said as he ran his hands along the shaft of the bottle, “or else the condom could break.”

I thanked him for the advice and took a bite of ramen.

The condom is probably still there, and I suggest that if you’re in the Leigh kitchen you use the vegetable oil.

*Bennington safe sex kits are always kept in house kitchens, and I have become so used to seeing condoms while I cook that I don’t even make the connection anymore.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Summer as a College Schedule

I wrote this back in July and was quite pleased with how it came out. There's something formulaic about the language of a curriculum that just screams to have it applied to other aspects of our daily lives.

Nonprofit Lake Association Watershed Internship

Perfect for the individual who hates being stuck behind a desk all day; students accepted for this position will engage in a variety of different tasks. In addition to competently managing the Lake Host and Weed Watchers programs, students will assist with monthly water quality testing and snorkeling for invasive milfoil as they learn how to manage environmental issues on a small scale. Additional duties include invasive and native plant identification, driving the pontoon boat around Lake Sunapee, writing articles on current lake issues, running errands, pulling up the dreaded purple loosestrife, repairing the boat wash, scuba diving, traipsing through underbrush, and redesigning the fish poster that last year’s intern shamelessly plagiarized from

Prerequisites: Basic handyman skills required; scuba certification recommended for maximum enjoyment.
Credits: 12

A Rogue Bookseller: Entrepreneurship I

Ever looked at all those books that Bennington students throw into dirty free piles at the end of a hectic term? Ever considered that those books might be worth big money? The first week of this course will consist of a thorough search of the Bennington campus, as students snatch up any books that could be worth a dime before their classmates beat them to the punch. They will then list their findings online, where demand for textbooks is always high, and establish an inventory of books for their own storefront. Advanced students may wish to search for Free Piles left after local yard sales around the Kearsarge area, or bargain for cheap flea market books to increase business. Be warned that demand for Brian Jacques novels isn’t as high as one might be lead to believe.

Prerequisites: None. Students will need to provide their own packing materials, preferably at a minimal cost.
Credits: 2

Fix My Ride: A Crash Course in Intermediate Auto Repair

Students selecting this course will slowly delve into the multitude of tasks required for the upkeep and maintenance of an older car that, while it may still have plenty of miles left in it, requires a vigilant eye to keep it from slipping into disrepair and desolation. We will begin with elementary fluid and tire pressure checks, move on to bulb and air filter replacement, then on to Bondo repair and the elimination of unsightly rust spots, as well as exhaust checks and instrument panel repair. Advanced topics may include fixing a steering fluid leak, and solving the mystery of why the car’s tapedeck makes an annoying clicking noise when first turned on.

Prerequisites: Some familiarity with autos, including the ability to change one’s own oil.
Credits: 2

Advanced Independent Study in Literature

How does one stay involved in the wide world of literature without college teachers to design a syllabus for us? This course tackles the dilemma faced by many an avid reader determined to keep up with the literary world after college. Students will individually delve into the backlog of books they’ve accumulated over the past year, attempting to catch up as best they can, and develop their thought processes on these novels without the strain of paper-writing or class discussion. Selections may include works by Vonnegut, Faulkner, Davis-Goff, Haddon, Baroness Orczy, Millhauser, Kafka, Lee, Roth, Christie, Gogol, Sinclair, Mandella, Hiassen and John F. Kennedy. Students should come fully prepared not to have anyone to talk with about anything they read throughout the semester.

Prerequisites: The ability to select a varied and interesting reading list; self-discipline.
Credits: 2

Staying in Touch With Friends II: The Post-College Abyss

College is over, and with it ends the relative ease of keeping in touch with friends and acquaintances on a small rural campus, just as the ease of seeing people every day throughout high school also disappeared so long ago. Suddenly, the very real possibility of losing dozens of fulfilling relationships with a wide range of people looms over us, as the uncertain future threatens to destroy everything we’ve always taken for granted. To make matters worse, social networks at home have altered in such a way as to render them almost unrecognizable from the way they were four years ago, causing confusion to the unprepared. This course is about facing these challenges head-on amidst an onslaught of other post-graduation activities; we’ll cover such topics as Facebook communication and what it can and can’t do; writing e-mails that friends will actually respond to; what to do when you simply seem to know too many people; how to plan events when so many of your closest friends have already gone; and how to survive in this brave new world without a cell phone.

Prerequisites: Successful completion of “Staying in Touch With Friends I: The Long Goodbye” or permission of the instructor.
Credits: 4, though students have found considerably more success taking this course in its 8 credit incarnation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Girl at the Post Office

I took a trip through the rain to the Post Office the other day to mail a book that I had sold and parked next to a green SUV with a Saint Michael’s College decal displayed across the rear windshield. A girl I vaguely recognized got out and walked ahead of me to the counter where she asked about the Now Hiring sign hung by the side of the road. “We need a substitute rural carrier,” the clerk replied. The girl said thank you as she turned away to leave, and I watched her tread quickly out of the lobby and back to her car.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Fort

Dan couldn’t believe that I had never been to The Fort and insisted that we take a trip to see it. It had been built by larpers, he said, and I didn’t expect anything more from his vague descriptions than a ramshackle old barn with the roof caved in and patches of moss forming on its rotten walls. Our adventuring party that day consisted of Dan (Level 14 Explorer), myself (Level 6 Watershed Steward), Andrea (Level 9 Architect’s Assistant), Nate  (Unknown Character Class), Jesse  (Level 8 Ski Resort Technician), and Cosmo (Level 2 Dog) for the mile and a half hike into the Springfield state forest. I only vaguely remembered Jesse—were I to guess, I would have said that his last name was Owens. Before we departed, Nate (who has traded his waistcoats and fedoras for long hair and large jackets) grabbed a hunk of hamburger meat from his freezer and struggled vehemently with a dull kitchen knife to chop off a hunk for the five of us so that we would have something to eat. Aside from bringing buns and a package of Kraft singles, we were laughably unprepared for cooking, and I was barely prepared for a hike; all I had was my fleece jacket, my knife, the flashlight from my car, and my trusty sneakers.

The sun had gone down before we even left Cricenti’s (now Hannaford’s, though the name sticks), and we made our way down the dark well-maintained trail that wound up a series of hills and into a small camping area. Luckily we encountered nothing more dangerous along the way than a Level 3 Mudhole. A blind trek through the woods followed, as each of the others navigated up the final hill by instinct. What I saw next was a solid wall of branches and sticks that kept going in both directions with a sturdy doorway in front of me. The larpers had surrounded the entire top of the hill with a wall about eight feet high and forty feet in diameter, and inside lay an inner sanctum with a fire pit and several rock thrones with carefully contoured backs and armrests. Outside was a jail, another smaller room that Nate had mostly dismantled for firewood, and a bathroom that was really just a pit with a long railing to lean against. I couldn’t stop laughing at the array of wooden shields spray-painted with different fantasy logos that hung along the walls—symbols for the imagined nationality of someone’s Level 24 Fighter or Level 18 Elf. The shields lent the fort a feeling of great care that we took advantage of by telling jokes:

“Do you think this place is filled with the blood of sacrificed virgins?”
“The only virgins who have been here are the ones who built the place.”
(Drum fill)

I couldn’t believe that there were larpers in Springfield serious enough to build such an elaborate fort, which aside from Dan and his crew now seemed to be frequented mostly by high school kids who came there to drink Bud Light. We used the fire pit to thaw the massive hunk of meat enough to chop it into pieces with an ax and grill hamburgers on a rusty shovel. Mine were crunchy from being burned (or from being dropped on the ground), but meals grilled in the woods still taste better. The whole experience made me want to disappear into the forest to see what kind of adventures I could find, or even just to spend time with nature, which I don’t do nearly enough of anymore. (Dan said that he and a friend used to spend days in the woods living by their wits. They caught rabbits for food by finding places where they crossed, then narrowing off their path and setting crude snares to strangle them.) I’d do more exploring if I knew where there were more forts to be found.