This has quickly become the highlight of our family’s day.
I’ve talked a little bit about being a D&D nerd back in the day; My interest was intense for a period of time in the 6th grade, and then casual for a few years after that. I was also into a sister game called Gamma World, which was basically D&D in a post-apocalyptic setting. Something about this game caught my interest a lot more than dragons and swords. Some history:
In 1982, my family moved from blue-collar New Jersey to a town in white-collar Connecticut, and I started at a new school. We were bused in from a remote cul-de-sac on the far side of town. I was pretty isolated until school started (the only other kid on our street was two years younger, and all he wanted to do was sit inside and play Mrs. Pac Man) but after a rocky couple of weeks I met up with a guy who lived less than a half-mile from my house through the woods. He introduced me to a bunch of his friends, who lived nearby, and one of the things we bonded over was a game I’d never heard of before: Dungeons and Dragons.
I didn’t understand how the game worked at first. There were dice, and rules, and they gave me a character to play, and I enjoyed using our imagination to solve problems. We played on and off again that fall, between building forts in the woods around our houses, riding bikes, and Pitfall! I enjoyed one of the best Halloweens of my life that year when my friend’s father showed us how to melt the plastic tip of a can of shaving cream to shoot the foam in ten-foot streams; we roamed in and out of epic battles with older neighborhood boys, using our knowledge of the local woods to escape and regroup.
My parents gave me the beginner’s box set of both D&D and Gamma World that Christmas, and after that I was obsessed. We played through the spring until school let out, when my friends vacationed out of town. I spent a lonely August swimming in the pool, reading books from the library, and creating Gamma World campaigns for my friends to play through when they all got back.
That fall, we started at the middle school across town. I was dumped into a new system where I knew no one, and all of my friends from 6th grade had dissolved into other classes. D&D suddenly wasn’t cool in the cutthroat atmosphere of 7th grade, and I was adrift in rough social waters.
When we moved to New York, I spent one lonely semester in 8th grade until I made it up to the High School, and found new friends. One of the things we did was play D&D and Gamma World informally here and there; I’m not going to lie, but I miss those Coke and pizza-fueled sessions with friends, because we had a great time. (I remember an epic 10-hour session during an ice storm my Junior year).
Fast forwarding, I had a little credit with Amazon last week and decided to find a game that Finn and I could play, as well as one that I’ve been dying to try for years: Fallout 4. Fallout is a series that’s been around since 1997, but Fallout 4 was released two years ago. It’s as if they took about 90% of Gamma World and made a video game out of it. You control a character who awoke from a cryogenic vault 200 years after a nuclear war, and you spend the game wandering a gigantic wasteland, killing evil humans and radiated monsters (if you can) while picking up objects along the way. You can use these objects to craft new weapons, structures, or special items. You can start settlements for people, working to keep them happy and safe. You can find special powered armor suits which help you defeat huge, powerful monsters. In short, everything that was cool about Gamma World but without your friends playing by your side.
I’m already about 20 hours into the game and I can’t put it down.
Today I slept in, to about 8 or so when the light coming through the shades finally woke me up. I had homemade pancakes for breakfast, from a batch Jen made on Thanksgiving morning. I had a cup of coffee, which tasted good again.
After we got our collective day started, I went outside into balmy 60˚ weather and opened up the garage. Inside, the Scout hadn’t been run up in over a month (since radiation and chemo began) so I squirted some starter fluid into the carb, unhooked the trickle charger and got her rumbling out in the sunshine. The lifters all ticked at first and then calmed right down into a slow burbly idle, and I kept her running for about 10 minutes until the temperature gauge came up to normal. While that was happening I pulled the hose carts in for the winter, tucked the grille in under the porch, and replaced the old, fraying tarp out on the woodpile with a shiny new one.
At about 2 our neighbor the electrician came over to rewire some of the stuff he’d put in years ago before we reoriented the bathroom. While he was up there Jen and I took a walk downtown for coffee to get out of the house, and took the long way back home. The sun and the air tasted so good I just wanted to drink it.
By 4:30 he’d done as much as he could do; we have to narrow the closet opening by about 4″ to allow for switchboxes on either side (2 for shower light and fan, one for closet light). He’s going to put an outlet under the front two windows and another under the back two windows. There are a couple of other small things to wrap up, but drywall is much closer to getting done than it was.
After dinner, the girls went down the street to see Santa visit Catonsville with the neighbors. When they got back we all got into PJs and read Chapter 2 of The Order of the Phoenix together; Finn is in a total Harry Potter place right now that will not be interrupted by anything other than The Last Jedi in a couple of weeks. We’ve got a nice thing going where we each read three pages aloud to each other until we finish a chapter. I think I look forward to that part of the day most of all.
What did we do on Thanksgiving Day? We did absolutely nothing. And it was glorious. We spent the entire day in our PJs and started out by making mountains of pancakes, then devouring them in front of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The less said about the parade the better, but it’s free and it lasts until noon. Then we switched over to the Westminster Dog Show and ate some snacks. At 2 we ordered Pho, so by 3 we were enjoying that in front of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire–the book of which we finished the night previously.
In the middle of the movie Karean stopped by with “some Thanksgiving food,” which turned out to be enough Thanksgiving food to feed us until next week. Huge trays of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, beans, gravy, and cranberry relish, with rolls and pie to finish things off. She stayed and visited with us for a while until her ears started burning and then headed back to her family’s meal. We immediately dug into some pie and ice cream and finished the movie, which was good but not as epic as Azkaban. Then we had a late dinner of turkey and stuffing while we watched the first part of Azkaban again.
I straight-up MURDERED a cheeseburger today for lunch. And fries.
Appetite is good.
I haven’t had a cup of coffee in a week now. Somewhere around Monday it stopped tasting good; I don’t know what happened. We make french press coffee from good beans, so it’s not like we’re swilling Folger’s or use a 20-year-old drip machine. I just couldn’t drink what was in my cup. Normally I’m a 16-oz kind of guy; a cup on the way to work and then enough to top off when I’m there. I’ve gone up to as much as 2 and a half cups for short durations in the last couple of years but then I don’t sleep. After suffering a massive migraine during the procedure to put in my port, I’ve been drinking half-caf, so when I went off the horse completely I didn’t wind up with headaches.
Coffee and I have had a long, lovely relationship since my junior year of high school, when I got a license and a car and was finally able to drive myself to school and work. In our podunk little town the 7-11 was the center of the social scene and the only good place to get a cup of coffee for cheap. (Later I learned of some delis in town that made far superior coffee, but this was 1987). I suddenly found that coffee was the ideal way to get myself moving in the morning and stay active enough to handle the pile of after-school activities I’d signed up for.
Along the way it took time to learn how to make good coffee on my own; somehow the knowledge I learned as a short-order cook didn’t extend to coffee. I brought a drip machine to college but never had the discipline to keep fresh milk handy, so I survived on the swill at the student center.
Later, as I did a lot of camping, I bought a percolator and that was my go-to brewing solution until it fell and the glass bulb cracked; the strong, gritty flavor of percolated coffee reminds me of windswept mornings at Assateague before hitting the beach. When Jen moved in with me she had a genius little one-cup drip machine that was the soul of simplicity; simply sticking a mug under the filter was all one needed. Eventually it died and we had to go to the french press, especially since Jen now drinks decaf and I don’t.
I wonder if I’ll want coffee again on the other side of this. Most foods still taste good (Jen did go and get me another burrito yesterday, BLESS HER HEART) but I’m off certain things until my body sorts out what’s going on.
Well, I felt good enough to get up out of bed and come downstairs to the couch, where I stayed for the whole day. Between the NFL games on today (mostly shitty) and Gears of War 4 (awesome) there’s been enough to distract me from a general sense that I might want to throw up at any given point.
The Xbox has been a great addition so far. It’s taken some getting used to, because I’ve only ever dealt with a first-generation console, where you stick a CD in it and it thinks for a minute and then you get a screen that says, “PLAY!” This Xbox has to spend 3 hours downloading the game to the console, another hour to update that game, and then it’s ready to play, after you’ve added a Microsoft email account and enter your passkey (which I can never seem to remember). Of course, playing games on the old console is like peering through a window smeared with peanut butter, while this new one is like being inside an IMAX movie, so my complaints are boring and ancient and YOU KIDS KEEP IT DOWN OUT THERE. Apparently I can hook our FIOS cable router through the Xbox and have it act as a media center, but I’d guess Microsoft would then keep a record of how many hours Finn has watched Teen Titans Go and that would ruin her chances for Presidency.
I was well enough to eat a decent breakfast, a normal-sized lunch, and a reasonable dinner, and with a few exceptions (we made everything as bland as possible) it all tasted OK. I’ve noticed that sweet foods, minus ice cream, aren’t appetizing at all, while savory stuff seems to get my mouth watering. I told Jen that if she could score me another one of those mediocre burritos and some guacamole, I’d probably cry with happiness. Maybe sometime this week–the restaurant is a bit out of the way.
Through an avenue I won’t divulge here, I got my hands on some medical marijuana in candied form. You can think whatever you like, but that shit works. I took it at about 10 this morning and it didn’t wear off until the late afternoon. What it did was mellow out my stomach, remove a lot of the nausea I had earlier in the morning, erase the various pains and aches I’ve developed, and provide an honest to god appetite. This coming week will be the true test of how it works, because the Neulasta bone soreness is going to kick in tomorrow, and all of the ill effects of the chemo+radiation are going to come crashing down on my head about Tuesday or so. But I’d rather have this than any of the opioids they were talking about in the hospital.