This has taken me all week to write, far longer then it should have, so I'm going to just fling this out there and hope it skips. This took so long because a lot of the subjects that make me, me, are a real downer (You've been warned!). But at least it shows why I throw myself so deeply into my love for gaming and the issues of the industry behind it.
It's funny that Andy's asked us to do this, since I've been looking for a reason to write something like this this for a long time now. But it always felt awkward to be like "Hey, look at me.. Over here... HEY!" like a selfish Navi with nothing substantial to add to this game, especially because of how I can't come up with even 5 things without the biggest of them being REALLY dark. So I'm pretty thankful that the call was put out for us to list some things about ourselves -it makes posting about my mess of a life a little less awkward.
If Andy and Philkensebbin are reading this, most of this will clear up all that "I'll tell you at some point" stuff I've been dancing around for a while now. Put an extremely optional, no emotional strings attached, gun to my head, and I'll spill the beans pretty readily, lol.
Now, with that out of the way, lets go into the facts that only patient client privilege can provide! Sit a while, and have a nice nap!
1-3) Psoriasis is just the tip of my iceberg:
I'm not big on it myself, since I've shunned my Catholic upbringing, but have you ever read the bible? Or, at least, heard of the Book of Job? The guy at the lead there is a dude that just can't catch a break, mostly because God's decided to test him by letting Satan piss all over his life, at least from what I've always understood of it. There are many days where I feel like that guy.. But in modern times I may be worse (it, like the source material is up for interpretation).
My life has always been unnecessarily complex, even before the psoriasis conversation that Occam's Electric Razor and myself had just recently
. So much so that it comprises the first three sections of this post, and filters into many of the others.
For at least 8 years I practically lived in funeral homes:
I come from a large Italian family, and yeah, the usual idea, the law of averages if you will, is that a lot of people mean a lot of people will eventually die. EVENTUALLY. Not the majority of your family by the time you're 16.
From age 8 to 16 I went to -at the very least- one funeral a year, and every one of the deceased was close family member; the majority of them weren't really that old either.
The first and most devastating was my cousin, Eugene. I plan on writing about soon because there is a deep gaming connection based around him and the anniversary of his passing was recently. I often attribute his death to being the first of many reasons most of my problems that have consumed me, started. Right to the point, he was my hero. Even at 11 or so years older then me, he was always there for me and willing to spend lots of time with me. He was a star high school athlete, super popular, handsome.. Pretty much everything I wasn't and will never be.. And he'd waste his days with hanging out with me and feel just as amazing as he was. When he died it was like someone knocked down my Jenga set and shit fire all over the pieces.
Even though he was the first and, at that time, the worst, he wasn't the last, all of which had some sort of lasting effect on me, including the death of my great grandfather, which lead to my having to move away from the only home, and all the people, I had ever known, right before high school. Most recently, 3 years ago this July (and 10 days before my birthday), my mom died of a sudden heart attack at 50, which I'm still struggling hard to come to terms with.
As a side note, I'm pretty much uncomfortable in social situations and always have been. But that's sort of a lie.. Maybe.. At least is it if you feel that a funeral is a legitimate social setting. I feel more comfortable at funerals then I do any where else.. But that also includes me seeing to everyone elses emotional needs, making them happy and smile, while never getting asked how I feel (even at my moms funeral, which I'm still bitter about). Subsequently, weddings make me sick -not because I don't believe in them, or love (I do believe, in both), but because of some weird gut punch reaction that happens inside me while attending, that makes me physically ill.
I'm (what I call) a 9/11 refugee:
9/11 was a big day in not only American history, but world history. Just about everything that has happened in the world since has been shaped by that day. My life was greatly effected beyond where I may have been that day and the terrible changes that happened in the world that followed.
I do remember where I was when I heard: I was bumming a ride from a friend of mine to my mall job (Thanks Randy) when a usually jovial radio morning show crew stopped everything they were doing to say a plane hit the first tower.
The rest of the day was dead in the water. The mall was a complete wasteland that day; the mall in Dawn of the Dead
had more patrons in it. My co-worker, Kathy, and I spent most of the day standing outside of the the shop watching the news through the window of the Ruby Tuesdays next door. Eventually there was -which has been forgotten in hindsight- threats against large, big money-making malls, and the one I was in was one of them. So we were told to shut down by 2 or 3pm and leave. What I didn't know during all that was my dad was supposed to be way closer.
At the time my dad worked in a warehouse in Nyack, NY, right outside the city, that was supplying things (and workers, I think) to the towers. The guys that had to go down there that day had forgotten things that my dad was going to have to bring them, and, from what I remember him telling me, he was just about to leave with the stuff when the horror started. He dodged a huge bullet that day (but we'll get to more of that in a few..).
I also have a cousin, who was a banker, who worked in the buildings, but wasn't there at the time. I forget if he took the day off, or was on the ferry (he lives in New Jersey) when the events started, and got turned away. He dodged an even bigger bullet.
So, somewhat oddly for my track record with my big buddy death, I didn't lose any one that day.
To the people who did, I'm still eternally sorry, in a way, that this one time luck was actually on my side meant that I couldn't take that burden off of so many others. But boy-howdy does fate have a sick a way of turning around and kicking you in the ass with the force of a freight train...
After that day, after the economy started to fray and collapse. My dad's company began to freak out at the stocks dropping, the people who weren't making orders, and the short-term money that was leaking from all seams. So, like so many industries at the time, they started firing people left and right. My dad, in spite of being in a management position, was amongst the first to get the ax.
I remember the day I heard that too. It was my 9/11 2.0, and I wasn't going to be as lucky as I was the first time.
It was only a month or two after 9/11, and as soon as the words left my moms mouth as I was walking out of the door to spend the night drinking with my friends, a cold premonition of us losing our house washed over me. To put it lightly, that night went terrible for me.
Trying hard to keep the house, my dad never did get steady work again in New York, and we did end up getting to the point where we lost it, in spite of my lending him thousands of dollars at a time to pay the bills (he never would simply take it and leave it at that), while trying to put myself through college. I was still living there, so if they went, I would likely have to go too if I couldn't find another living arrangement.
That arrangement never came, not for lack of feverishly trying, and I was forced to give up everything I've ever worked for -school, work, friends-who-were-basically-family... everything-- again to move a full more 3 times before my parents finally decided to settle in Blackfoot, ID. aka Hell on Earth, minus all the cool Cenobites.
At that point, when the dust finally began to settle, a few years after the fall of the towers, I was also still broken beyond repair. I was long into making excuses for not going out, my psoriasis was in full swing (from, I completely believe, the stress I feel daily), I was sleeping all the time or generally hiding from the world in my room.
The only thing that's marginally saved me was meeting my fiance, something else I'll write about sometime due to it's heavy gaming connection, and moving to where I am now with what little money I had left.. And even that's been far from smooth; I'm still living life like I'm about to be forced to move again, out of boxes and stuff, almost a decade later. I guess I feel like if the next fallout were to happen, I'm already packed and ready to go.
To my health (or the lack there of.):
Okay, my psoriasis is really bad, but the rest of me isn't well either.
Physically, be it because of the psoriasis or other reasons that doctors (who I'll fling shit at in a bit) ignored. Physical, random, pain wracks my body daily. It's the first thing that comes to mind when I wake up, and the last thing I worry about before I go to bed (if I even do that, because I'm an insomniac). Daily I worry about my chest, eyes and head, because I have a long family history of heart issues; my mom having had a stroke in her eye a year or so before she died of a heart attack.
The night WoW's Mists of Pandaria
expansion was launched was spent in the ER, with a blood pressure reading of well over 200, instead of getting my blood pressure raised by the wall of players stepping over each other trying to get to max level first. The reason for the problem? They don't know; but they did know I should have been dead while issuing me a $3500 bill I still can't hope to pay, while ejecting me like a bad disc.
Following up with a doctor who knew I couldn't afford him, I got strung along for months to the tune of another $600 or $700, to not be properly diagnosed with a single thing other then high blood pressure before I told him I couldn't afford to see him any more... That's the day he tried to tell me, after I said, "hey I can't do this any more," he thought I was bi-polar, but wasn't qualified to tell me for sure.. Thanks, Doc.
Mentally I'm a train wreck. I was already pretty convinced before the doctor told me I was bi-polar, that I was; the powerful mood swings I have were enough for me. But other things I've come across, having to go through the process of self diagnosis and research, that seem likely accomplices too: OCD; PTSD; self neglect; quite a few fears, rational and irrational (I'll get to one of them later.. This stuff all hooks together); tons of worries and stress.
My family and friends have all pretty much turned their back on me, because no one believes that I'm as troubled as I tell them; they think I'm just lazy. The government doesn't want to give me disability because they said I haven't worked long enough to be given it, but I can't really work in my condition, so that debt -and lack of self worth- isn't going to go away any time soon. My fiance has told me she doesn't want to marry me because of the debt; that we're still engaged, but we can't afford to get married with that over my head. And there's a bunch of stuff on her end of things, that are really hard on me for a lot of reasons, even though I can't say or do anything about them. And the 2 suicide attempts I've had.
Yeah, that last bit is a thing that happened a few times.
So yeah, there's all that really heavy stuff... Always rough times, even on the good days. I know everyone has their own pain, I keep hearing that from everyone (usually those who don't want to talk to me), the whole "someone's always got it worse," thing, and I understand that, but this is just mine. Nothing more, nothing less.
One thing I can say though is that I'm not a drug addict (I've never done any, I don't even smoke) or an alcoholic (I drink rarely), even though both run in my family, and some would say I have basis for starting either. Silver linings!
4) I have a genius level IQ:
Seems like they don't call it "genius" any more, it's "gifted" now. Like I'm suddenly an X-Man. And it seems like people are downplaying IQ a bunch, if only because most people with high IQs don't do anything worth while with it any more. Hell, all Stephen Hawking is doing lately is warning people about Skynet.
Even so, as far as being considered gifted goes, I'm somewhere towards the high end, having tested at anywhere between 155 and 165. But it's not all unicorns and optic beams, I'm afraid. It's a blessing and a curse.
If you've ever seen the movie pictured above, being gifted or a genius, or Jor-el, comes with a price. Traditionally the people with high IQ -whether they use it or not- are most often plagued with psychological troubles and instability, and having the studies that say so is somewhat comforting. It's about as flowery as my problems get, being so smart (or whatever) my brain can't handle it.
IT'S OKAY FOLKS, IT'S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM. HAVE SOME LISA FRANK STICKERS!
(shhhh, I'm not stealing a page from the Occam playbook.. But The Occam Playbook
does happen to be my award winning film debut, adapted from a book)
5) From what I understand, I'm a direct descendant of Leonardo Da Vinci (on my mom's side):
As fate would have it, no matter how I feel about Assassin's Creed series, it has a small place in my heart because it lets me imagine what my ancestor would have done if he had bad asses around him (also see: Da Vinci's Demons
, where he's sort of a bad ass himself). But I'll never really know what he was actually like, unless of course Doc happens to work things out with the Libyans some time soon.
Let's face it, he was probably as loony tunes as I am.
Story goes that when my Great Great Grandfather, and whoever else in the family that was with him, landed at Ellis Island, they didn't have to change the family name; the people in charge of that stuff were fine with it (usually names were changed because people couldn't pronounce them). They actually chose to it because they thought being associated with Leonardo was like being associated with a kook. Sounds like someone was bitter about something... Or a warning of things to come...
6) My nickname growing up was Boner:
Anyone old enough remember Growing Pains
? Remember how Mike Seaver had a best friend named Boner, not because he had an embarrassing moment talking to a girl where he popped one, but because his last name was something vaguely Italian, like Stabone (yes I looked that up..), or something?
Well same thing happened to me. Different real name, completely the same basic premise, but with more innuendo, because: real kids aren't mid-80's sitcom kids.
At some point an ingenious friend started calling me "Bones," and another "Bone-daddy," after Jack the Skeleton King, which was a far better nicknames that I accepted immediately.
I've also been asked far too many times if I'm related to U2's Bono... Or Sunny Bono.. by a bunch of people, including teachers who knew better, even though my real name is very seriously not spelled exactly like either -there are more letters in it. It's really irritating for some reason.
Oh, and I remember bringing this up to my dad once and all he could say was: "Well that's fucking original, " leading me to believe this was far from the first time this had happened.
7) Was going to be a baker, then a film maker:
Most of high school was spent in photography and media arts classes, but since I was little I really loved cooking. I've got this weird driving need to make people happy, as if in spite of my own pitfalls in life, and food is the absolute best way to fill that void in people. Can't make'm smile? Make'm fat! That's what I say!
Most of my early life was spent watching my great grandmother cook, I absorbed a lot and wanted to take it all the way. Nothing celebrity-like -though I have thought about trying out for Master Chef
should my mania ever let up enough- but I wanted to at least own a restaurant. Somewhere along the way in high school I found the exact science of baking really relaxing, most likely because it was a constant: you follow the recipe, don't try to deviate too much, and things won't flop over and die. That sort of thing is stabilizing for a teenager with the life I already had at that point. So my sights turned on at least having a bakery.
By junior year, in spite of everything else I was doing and really good at, I was dead set on going to the prestigious Culinary institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY, literally a stones throw away from where I lived in Poughkeepsie, NY. That is, until my idiot-no-good guidance councilor screwed up everything for me.
I'm not going to skirt around this one bit: The woman was the biggest brain dead moron you'll ever meet; totally substantiating the myths that guidance councilor is a "phoned-in" job. She couldn't get my name right worth a shit and kept mixing me up with another kid, all the way down to switching up our files/transcripts somehow. I really don't know if she ruined any other hopeful student's chances at getting into a school, but it seems likely. But beyond such colossal mess ups like that, she also completely misinformed me on what I needed to do to prep for my attempt at being accepted into the CIA. Due to that, and a few other things that could have been fixed, my credentials were all wrong and I was completely derailed off course.
As kid who didn't know what he was doing in this case, with parents that didn't go much further with their education after high school, I had no help from anyone other then this person who's sole job was to help kids get to that next step, and she fumbled the entire thing for me behind the scenes.
Stumbling hard off course, I ended up taking a year off trying to figure out what to do with myself until a friend of mine told me to cut the crap and at least go to community college (Duchess Community College; aka, Harvard on the Hudson), where I ended up going back to the well I was using in high school, taking up a communications major with my sights sent on film making. My high school media arts teacher was one of the professors there, and he loved me (I hope. Always seemed like he did), so it sounded perfect.
Eventually it came to the events of what I outlined above, with having to give up everything. Somewhere in between Poughkeepsie and Blackfoot I tried, misguided and defeated, to look into going off to a school somewhere and had settled on the school Kevin Smith went to (and dropped out of) in Vancouver, but I still didn't know what I was doing, and was in a terrible place all around, so I never followed through.<br />
I still really want to do something video or sound related. I'm extremely rusty, but I know those skills never left me... They're like the bike I never learned how to ride.
8) I've trashed hotels, but have also danced in castles; stalked a famous baseball player, almost got struck by lightning, and banned from the Vatican and US Capitol!:
That's me, with sun in my eyes (and before the psoriasis), outside the Blue Grotto on the Island of Capri, in Italy... Right around the time the sea cave had almost decapitated me. Remember kids: when the Italian man rowing your dingy tells you, "get down lower," and you're already laying on the bottom of the tiny row boat, there just may be no where else to go no matter what he says...
Before things got really bad for me I did get out and traveled a bit. Honestly, that's something I miss the most that life has robbed me of, seeing new places. At heart, buried somewhere under the darkness and the viscous putrid goo of fear that clogs me up on a daily basis, I'm an explorer.
One of the first great places I went to was Quebec, Canada, on a class trip with French class. 30+ kids set free in the great white (and fuck was it white! it was winter!) french speaking north. And they really did let us go free.. I'm not entirely sure how they got away with it, either, but we were allowed to go run around the city on our own at any time during that week where we weren't supposed to be going off and doing something touristy. It was a blast, especially since there was a full on arcade near our hotel that I spent most of my time in.
Oh, the hotel.. It wasn't as much of a hotel as much as it was, pretty much, a high class castle. Our class was almost collectively put out on the street, because we'd trash the rooms to see how far the staff would go to put them back together.
The next year they took us to Washington D.C., which for someone who loved history from a way-too-early young age, was awesome. We went to Fords Theater, got to run around the National Mall in the way-to-dark of night (which is really cool when you go to see the Vietnam memorial), got harassed by bums selling fake Oakley's ("O-keys," they said.. I shit you not) outside the national archives after viewing the Declaration of Independence and such.
More fun still, I almost got personally escorted out of the Capitol Building for looking up at the rotunda dome, and spinning around in the middle of the room till I was too dizzy to walk. Apparently they frown on that there.
On the way back from DC we stopped at a bay side mall in Baltimore and were allowed to run around unattended (seriously, they'd never get away with this today....) for a few hours. The Seattle Mariners were going up against the Orioles that night, just down the way, and the then Seattle pitcher, Randy Johnson, was walking around the mall trying to look for a shop to fix his watch. My best friend -who was way more into baseball then I ever was, ever- and I decided to tail him, discussing if we were going to ask him for an autograph... Then someone else actually acted on that urge, asking for their small child who was standing right there. Johnson went BALLISTIC on the woman for even bothering to look in his direction.
So we never did go up to him after that. We didn't see the point (looking back on it though, it may have made for a better story if we had). Now my knee jerk reaction whenever I happen to see him in anything, is to say "cockhole" rather loudly -pretty much the same reaction I have to all commercials for King's mobile games.
After high school, when my friends and I were all 18 and legal to do everything in Canada, some of us decided to take a trip up to Montreal for a week to hit up the casinos and drink in strip clubs: the real man things things we couldn't do by law in America.
And by "real man things" I also mean my almost getting struck by lighting running through the storm soaked streets going back to the hotel from our favorite strip club. Completely drunk, lightning hitting pavement yards away from you is seriously surreal.
Later on, right before I was circumnavigated around the country like a 1st world nomad, my grandma and aunt took my cousin and myself to Italy because they wanted to see where we came from.
That trip was absolutely one of the best experiences of my life, so much so that I honestly, very seriously, almost told my family that I wasn't going back home with them; that I was going to stay there and try to work out a life for myself (in a time of big, sweeping, crazy moves on my part to try to pick where I was going to be the next year for myself).
Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Capri.. So many places, so much food.. Amazing. Florence is where I felt the most at home, and that's where I almost wandered away from the group and never looked back. There was just something about that place, in spite of the massive crowds and all the fear mongering about pickpockets (yadda yadda), that felt like home to me.
During that trip we formally dined and danced at in castle (a real one this time), and we even ended up at the Vatican.. Oh boy the Vatican..
Those silly clothed guards really do get up in arms about the no photo portion of their do's and don'ts.
I'm 5'5", My cousin (also seen in the picture above, behind me) is around 6'1"-ish. Now tell me, in what world is a person around 6 foot tall obscured enough by a midget like me, while taking restricted pictures with a flash on in one of the worlds holiest, most famous and beautiful chapels?
No amount of people around you is going to constitute an Assassin's Creed-style blend-in-to-stealth crowd in that situation.. I call you're bullshit Ubisoft.
9) I was speed running waaaaaaay before I knew what speed running was:
One Saturday morning when I was 5 or 6 (strongly believe it was 5) I was sitting in my parents room -the room that housed my NES- watching cartoons, but came to that dreaded point in the morning where there was absolutely no cartoon I gave a shit about. Oh, something I wanted to watch was a half hour away, don't get me wrong, but that current half hour was complete dreck.
So what was a kid with an NES and a few games in front of him to do? How about play some videogames!
I popped in Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers
.. Bleep blop blooop.. Done in less than 8 minutes.. Not really because I WANTED to be, but because I was trying to beat the clock till the shows I wanted to watch.
Panicked in the way a kid that age would, I still had around 20 minutes left to kill.. I mean, what the hell was I going to do! Oh, Duck Tales
Bleep blop blooooop... Finished in another 6 to 8 minutes or so, under the same pretenses of knowing I had a restrictive time limit..
With about 10 minutes left in the show, I decided I couldn't pull off a hat trick with any of the other games I had in the box (I had so many games for the NES.. I wish I never sold them later on) next to the TV, so I tapped out and chose to eat the last bit of commercial heavy viewing time (aka, the worst time to watch anything).
Fast forward to today and I find out that I could have very well set the world record for that time, when all I really gave a damn about was not wasting a half hour on crap I didn't care about watching. Funny thing is, I still don't really care to speed run anything. I respect those who can do it, but I really do like sitting and enjoying my games for a bit.
10) I almost had a paid writing job for WoWInsider:
Sometime a few years back, when I was in full WoW swing, I used to also frequent WoWInsider on an everyday basis. My most boisterous comments would be seated in the articles on the class and spec closest to my heart: The Elemental Shaman.
Someone was watching I guess, because one day an email hit my inbox stating they needed a new Elemental Shaman writer, asking me if I wanted a shot. I had already been my current state of mind for a while at that point and was well aware that the only way I'd make anything of myself, at least to help financially around here (which I'm still not doing, as personally frustrating as that is), was to start writing and hope to make some money off of it. So, my heart a flutter, I gladly jumped on the opportunity.
Things were stacked against the applicants from the start however, since they also extended the sentiment to (former?) Elitist Jerks Elemental Guru, Binkenstien. If anyone knew anything about anything WoW at that time, and I don't know if this is still the case, the Elitist Jerks were the go-to people for all things theory-crafting -they were the people that most players wished they could be. At that point I pretty much figured, somewhat bitterly, that no one had a shot once he entered the race. Low and behold, not long after, he had gotten the gig.
It must not have struck a cord with many readers though, as his first few articles were full of crazy number crunching and other hardcore theory-crafting antics (that Elitist Jerks are known for). While confusingly interesting for someone like me, who likes to learn things (even if it's math.. screw math...), he didn't stick around very long with WoWInsider; being replaced by someone else not that long after. All I remember there being some groans that no one knew what he was talking about, at least.
Either way, it was an odd, enjoyable, experience to feel wanted and looked at for adding something to a community. I've been kind of chasing that high timidly ever since (especially the part where I may get a few buck out of it to help pay for food around here).
So that's me, more or less. There is more, but I'm locking that DLC up for now. This has already gone on long enough.
Hopefully I haven't put anyone to sleep, or worse, in a deep state of depression (but if so, welcome, there's cookies on the table in back). It really does feel good to get some of this off my chest, though. Thanks for reading if you made it this far!