Friday, September 21, 2007

Anytime I See Park Benches I Want to Smash Them

When I was a senior in college, something wonderful happened. Actually, two things. The first was that I became aware of the Mcdonalds 50 piece bucket of chicken nuggets, with ten sauce cartons, for only eight or nine dollars. They only did this on home football games, which served another purpose as it saved me from having to wake up early, and, half asleep, attempt to tailgate, at which time I gave up before starting and stared with no hesitation or time limit at pretty sorority girls who came to the games with their equally feminine fraternity boyfriends. To this day I have no idea who spent more time or money shopping for burnt orange clothing. Not that I was any better than them. At least they knew how to drink before 10am and didn't wear burnt orange "soccer" shirts, as did I, hoping someone would recognize and congratulate me on the genius wit required to wear shirts which played on the different meanings of football on the two sides of the Atlantic.
The first discovery was tertiary to what came next. Activision games released X-Men Legends for the X-box, Gamecube, and PS2. If it didn't change my life, it sure made it a whole lot better. All of a sudden, with three friends, I could play as the comic book characters for which I'd grown up searching odd corners of the house in order to scratch together enough change to buy comics I still reread today. Not finding any substantial change under the sofa or in the vacuum cleaner bag, my mom would overpay me for the small jobs I should have done for free anyway. Not only could I beat up on bad guys, but with the correct button manipulations, I (as Jean Grey) could fling mailboxes across the screen using telekinesis. And as Wolverine, I could size up any park bench I wanted, and then smash it. As you progressed further into the game, your powers grew. Whereas ten hours ago it would take 6 hits to demolish a city bench, now you could reduce two in one punch into something that termites wouldn't even call an appetizer. Thankfully, my friend Phil and I were luckier than these termites, as we each had a bucket of nuggets, with ten sauces, close within reach.
The other afternoon I was at my kitchen table, working on some reading that had been abandoned since breakfast, when I was surprised to see a giant lizard crawl out of the rafters, shimmy down the wall, and strut out of the front door. My surprise wasn't about the lizard's sudden appearance, but that I hadn't seen a lizard in my house in such a long time. It had been three or four days, and I was starting to wonder where they had gone. Maybe with the end of the rainy season they've looked for water elsewhere, I thought. Or are they tired of my steady diet of oatmeal, propel water, peanut butter, tomatoes, and beans? I had no idea, but I wished they'd been thoughtful enough to leave a note.
The weekend after, I was in Ouaga having coffee with two other volunteers who just happened to be married to one another. They were busy showing me the apartment they had decided to rent after another year of service. Staring at pictures of a hardwood high rise in Seattle, I was quick to ask a ridiculous question: Does it have water and electricity? Everybody at the table laughed, passing my query off as a statement on the reality of 99.9 percent of the houses here, but I had been serious. For a split second, I was actually thinking I was doing them a favor, reminding them not to skip over that ever-important detail before signing the dotted line. What is happening to me, I started to ask myself. Thank God I already knew.
Playing X-Men Legends and, a year later, X-Men II: Rise of Apocalypse, had taught me a lesson which was just then appreciated. Descending the stairs to the equally bohemian and conservative streets of West Campus (Each, may I add, making the other seem even more so. I mean seriously, do a bunch of gutted televisions aligned on your roof in a strange crown of performance art really make you a hippie, and does wearing two polo shirts, crisp khaki shorts, and brown loafers while driving in your "W" embossed Tahoe with people that are indistinguishable from you really make you a part of the fraternity crowd?), I saw park benches and mailboxes, all of which I wanted to smash. Not only that, I thought I could. All I had to do was approach one, punch it, and watch as it slowly faded away into video game graphic heaven. Not only that, people blocking a doorway on 6th street during that phase of my life required only an optic blast by Cyclops. Nothing too extreme, just enough to move their conversation to the more polite arena of the sidewalk. As I was still connected to reality, I never actually tried any of these superpowers. What's more telling is that they were placed so firmly in my mindset.
Some people falsely think of me as mildly creative. Actually it's just the opposite. I'm so uncreative that I just soak up whatever is around me, and expound on it internally and externally to anyone unfortunate enough to be near. I'm also the laziest person I know. So lazy, in fact, that I just use the technique mentioned above, and allow its results to shape my mentality. Whether that something is using superpowers on inanimate, tax-funded objects, the accepted presence of lizards as roommates, or the general idea that houses don't come with running water or electricity, I'm not choosy. I'm not a sponge, but a 6 foot Frankenstein made from velcro and bubblegum. I'm not absorbing anything I come into contact with, I just can't help but come into contact.
As kids my sister Katie and I went to see Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Immediately after getting home, we went into the backyard, picked up the ends of croquet mallets for stakes, and kicked down a few fenceposts. We weren't angry, nor were we suddenly in love with our neighbors and wanting a communal lawn; no elemental change had occured in us. What had occured was that we had just spent two hours in the dark, watching a nice looking blonde girl kicking things. And that was that. At a young age, we somehow knew that life is what you see in it. My dad of course came home, noticed our victory over the vampires, thanked us for saving the neighborhood, and nailed up the fallen boards.
Keeping all this in mind, I wasn't at all surprised that, while biking to the bus station in Ouaga last weekend, I passed a bus-stop bench under an awning, and, without giving it a second's thought, said to myself, two punches, maybe three.

3 comments:

Grant said...

Too true. Master Chief Grant often wanted to take the quick route from his third story apartment and just jump all the way down to the ground. Had to be sure to time the crouch for when he hit the ground, and maybe throw a frag grenade or two on the way down. Luckily, human Grant intervened just in time.

wisdom said...

oh gosh, don't even get me started on grand theft auto chris...

subash said...

Or SSX Subash, there are many a time I tried to "grind" my way home...

Also are you saying reusing the ideas that surround you is lazy? This revelation makes me think I am lazier than even I originally assumed.

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