Serene

Purple Papa

a;lksjdf;lakjsdf“When you were born, we still couldn’t think of a name for you.”

Nameless for a few hours, I did whatever babies do while my Dad and Mom eventually came to a conclusion, together, that I should be called Phillip. They later, unofficially, removed the second L. In hindsight, this explains a lot of my teachers misspelling my name; the official transcript must have had two Ls.


My Dad and I had an interesting relationship from the moment I was born. There was a time, the story goes, where I wouldn’t stop crying. Dad checked and changed the diaper. He fed me, or tried. He tried bouncing, burping, the whole shebang, and nothing worked. Fed up, he put me in a jolly jumper to tucker myself out, sat in the other room, and put on some records.

I was out within 15 or so minutes.


The stairs weren’t entirely uncomfortable, but I was getting tired of sitting on them waiting for my parents to all get out of bed. Christmas was the best; lots of presents, and Christmas milk, and awesome food… plus, Dad and everyone would get oysters!

I loved having Oysters with Dad.

With a creak, the door of the bedroom cracked open to show a bleary eyed pair of parents shuffling to the stairs.

“Why are you sitting on the stairs, Famous Philip?”

“Waiting for you! Presents!” I grinned.

My brothers and I got a wicked sick Batcave, and the action figures were getting a lot of attention that day.


Dust had gathered on the Batcave. It had been awhile since we last took it off the shelf. I passed it by with indifference on my way to the basement. I hadn’t seen Dad yet today.

The stairway down was dark. I hated and feared the dark, so I crept down carefully, flicking light switches from as far away as I could so I could stay in the light. Once I got to the bottom, the sound of Dad’s electric shaver was loud enough to wake the dead.

I opened the door.

“Morning Dad!”

“Good morning Famous Philip.” He kept shaving, his focus clearly on making sure he got all the rough patches without missing a one.

“Can I shave?” He laughed, and propped me up on the sink, and gave me a shave.

The trimmer tickled my face, and I laughed. Dad smiled. It wasn’t often I saw him smile since he and Mom stopped getting along, but he always smiled around my brothers and me.


Trees flashed by, punctuating the grey outside the car as we sped to the cottage.

Dad was explaining what was happening, how often we could see him and stuff. While driving, he started explaining how Mom wanted us to see him every second weekend.

My furrowed face grumped in the front seat, trying to puzzle out why Mom would want that. “That doesn’t seem fair.” 10 year old me was very interested in fairness; having two brothers has that effect on a boy.

He nodded. “Neither do I, Philip. I love my sons; if I could, I’d want to see you all the time. Now, you should love your Mother, always; she’s the only one you’re going to get, and I’m the only Dad you’re going to get. But…”

A flash of blue circled on the note pad as Dad made a pie graph, something I’d learned about not too long ago, so I could read it. Half of the circle was being sketched in blue. One side was Mom, the other dad. 50/50. Week on week off, he explained.

“That’s a lot more fair,” I judged. Dad smiled.


We hauled firewood from below the cottage, hand bombing the bits from one brother to the next. Julian was in the deepest; he was small enough to fit without banging his head all the time. I was in the hole, taking from Julian and passing it on to Sebastien, who would then run it inside the building and stack it. Dad was inside, correcting Seb’s mistakes and lighting the fires, getting the house warmed up. In the mean time, the cold had permeated my gloves, and my fingers hurt a bit. It didn’t matter much though, we were close to getting the wood we needed for the next couple of days.

“Philip, do you have any homework this weekend?” Dad’s voice was clear through the house.

“Nope, did it while I was in school.”

“You telling the truth? I have to know I can trust you.” His voice betrayed his distrust. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

“Trust me Dad, I’m not lying. I don’t have homework.” I lied.


I sat crying in the back of Mom’s car, her friend Brigitte in the front with her. Both were asking for details of some kind. What happened?

Sobbing, I told them how I didn’t do my math homework for my tutor, and after trying to squeeze out of it all day I had gotten caught. Dad was furious. He threw a dictionary across the room, and told me to leave.

One month. It had been a month since the last time I lied about my homework, but it wasn’t enough. Dad had kicked me out to Mom’s house.

His voice rang in my head. “If you can’t tell me the truth, then get out! If I can’t trust you anymore, and I love you, and this…” he left the room, the sound of heavy footfalls going upstairs. Sebastien helped me call mom and get me picked up. I don’t know what Julian did.

I cried until Mom got there, and sobbed some more.


The house was dead silent. None of the lights were on, save for a faint glow near the red room at the front of the house. I took off my snow-slogged shoes, leaving them in the mudroom. My socks padded the floor, the wooden floor creaking as I passed through the dinning and piano/reception hall. The dark stillness of the house was like a heavy blanket, smothering all the colours, turning them into a lifeless still-brown.

The door to the red room swung open on semi-dry hinges. The glow of white outside was stuck at the window opposite the door, the light of day unable to pierce the perma-gloam inside. The sofa nearest the door was occupied; someone lay there, wrapped in several blankets.

Dad.

Drifting past the table, I sat on an empty section of sofa near him. He had visibly lost weight, but not gained any muscle. Stress and misery had robbed him of his demeanor, his joyful and bright twinkling eyes which now sat on dark beds themselves. He stared at the window, but couldn’t see past the darkness.

I gently placed my hand in his, and squeezed. As if breaking a spell, his eyes focused and turned on mine. No one spoke.

He squeezed back, the crack of a smile touching his eyes.

An hour later, I left his sleeping frame on the sofa and embraced the bitter cold outdoors as it bit into my face.


Intro to Western Philosophy. Not a bad class, not at all, but the best part was being able to see the one girl in the back every day. I’d never talk to her (and I never did) but she was always a highpoint in my day without meaning to be. I worried about whether that made me normal, a monster, or both.

My phone rang. Dad.

As we spoke about my school and whether I was doing the work, I kept searching in the Sleven for a snack. I stopped mid sentence as I found a tin of oysters. I couldn’t help but smile.

“Philip, are you still there?” Dad was worried we had cut out, again, since he was driving in hilly areas.

“No, no, I’m still here Dad. It’s just… remember how we used to get oysters?”

“Sure thing, Famous Philip.”


The hall broke up in elated cheers as the ceremony came to an end. By contrast, I stood up, stretched, and sighed in relief. Those chairs sucked, but I was glad I got through the ceremony. Graduation isn’t so much a feeling of suddenly being spectacular, but a slow and satisfying stretch after hours of sitting.

I walked to the end of the pathway and saw Dad. He had the biggest smile.

“Sorry Dad, I forgot to shave. I know I should have.”

“No, no. The beard suits you, just…” he paused to collect his thoughts. “Just make sure you keep it clean, mister teacher.”

“Whatever Dad. Look at you, you scruffy bastard. You look good!”

Chuckling, he brought me into a hug. It had been a lot of effort, for him especially. Full professional degrees don’t come cheap, particularly when they take 7 years of secondary schooling to achieve. I worked over the year, sort of, and worked over the summer in a kaleidoscope of jobs that never really paid as much as I would have liked. School would have been impossible without his help. Not to mention all the times he moved me, or lent me the car; the times when he gave me needed advice, or an instrument with which to do a music degree. I owed him everything.

“Thanks Dad,” was all I could manage.

 

 

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To Mom

Audio;

To mom;

How’s it going? It’s not often that I talk to you like this. Honestly that’s my fault, and if one were to be precise, a laudable and likable thing to be, then I would like to add it’s my mistake.

I had a brainwave the other day where I thought about all the things I wanted. Young men want a lot of things; a beautiful partner, a glorious career, an impact on the world, and excitement; but only to the point where excitement no longer breeds boredom through inundation, an overload of one’s being. This is who I am, still and currently, for at least a while. This attitude is what led me to leave home; the necessity for a life experience that could at least be said to rival the idea of a good life. Through whose terms is another question, maybe answered by someone a lot smarter than I am.

As I sat in my room one hot July day, sweltering not only under the heat of a mid-Toronto afternoon’s haze but under the scrutiny of an uncaring depressed mind, I saw a branch to help me out of my darkness, a stick that struck towards England as a place of opportunity and a way to find the glorious life I mentioned above.

Self doubt tried to cripple my confidence, laziness sabotaged my ambitions, and complacency quashed any sense of adventure that sparked in July. Despite these things, or perhaps to spite them actively, you helped me. You bolstered my courage, spurred my spirits, and moved me to move myself towards a future I myself could make.

It wasn’t until today, when I realized that I hadn’t made the chance to thank you.

Up until the day I left, denial reassured me I wasn’t going anywhere; While going through security, grief informed me I’d never be back, and while living here? Loneliness reminded me just where I was, with whom, and to what end: me, myself, and I. From there, I pushed myself not because of any sensibility but from a misled ideology of only I can help myself.

I had a brainwave the other day about how all the things I wanted would not be possible without someone very special; you. And I hadn’t the courage to see past my own failings to notice how, through my denial, my deceit and my disgust, you continued to push me, to help me, and to care, even if it meant I moved further away.

Today, on Mother’s Day of all days, I wanted to, at long last, thank you for your care, your help, and your love; your untiring belief in what I want to do, even if I don’t know what to do. Without you, I wouldn’t be half the man I am today.

Thank you

Love,
Phil

Mechanics that Make Games GO

I recently started developing a board game. It is currently still lacking the basic mechanisms needed to even play, but the overall ideas and guidelines for the relationships between my 3 largest mechanics in the game are in place.

Here’s the thing: I actively started work on this side project for about 4-5 days. That’s it, and I’ve gone through not one, not two, but three iterations of the main mechanic E, 2 iterations of mechanic A(t) and birthed a third mechanic (e) to help add depth to the game. Still, it feels… loose.

What I mean here is that the game doesn’t look like it has an engine. It is about prediction and card counting for the most part, coupled with resource management of about 2-3 main resources, and eventually coming out on top by avoiding stronger opponents or overpowering them while augmenting your resources and diminishing theirs in, ideally, an elegant symbiosis of mechanics; but it feels like there’s no drive. There’s no singular thing that the game could not roll without.

One excellent example of a game with an engine mechanic is King of Tokyo. For those who don’t know about this game, I find it’s a lot of fun in big, casual groups. It handles 2-6 players at any given time, and features a really quick and exciting atmosphere. Imagine Yahtzee meets Godzilla, which then makes random lizard babies with King of the Hill. That is how King of Tokyo do.

WHY DO YOU LOOK LIKE CUBES WTF

Integral to the game, to a point where the rest of the game is impossible to play without it, is dice rolling. By rolling the dice, the game comes alive: when the dice stop, the game is dead. It’s that simple, and that uniquely powerful engine is not only easy to understand, but easy to use. Furthermore, it is the driving force behind a money mechanic, health, damage, and points. 4 interesting things with very cool relationships with one another.

Other games lack a central mechanic completely, and still manage this interesting phenomenon. Sentinels of the Multiverse, for instance; despite its huge amount of variety inherent in the many, many, many decks it has, the game has only that: variety. The mechanics of the game are almost non-existant, leaving only one, card management. As a result, interesting relationships emerge only once in a little while from the rules, but the game is still fun to play so long as you make use of the variety and enjoy a fairly simple game which relies on the relationships between the cards in play rather than underlying mechanics at work.

Mechanics? WHAT MECHANICS? HA HA HA!

Even here though, with no underlying, overarching mechanics, the game still has a driving force: the self-played villain and environment decks, which consistently throw problems to solve at the players, which are solved usually by bashing it repeatedly in the face, but the solutions can be a lot more elegant on occasion. This constant barrage of problems to solve moves the game at a reasonable pace, and keeps players playing.

And so I look at my game, and I have to ask myself: what is driving my game? How do I create a relationship between two mechanics that really gets players to WANT to do things in my game? How do I get the person playing my game to really want to go? It’s not an easy answer…

Lonesome Euphist

Have you ever felt like you’re the only one on campus who does ______(insert anything here)?

I can guarantee that I have felt that way.  I still do, for I am a Euphist.

See, in a lot of universities and groups in the states and, well, just about anywhere else, there are at least 2 or 3 euphonium players on campus.  Roughly.

Where I go? I’m a lone wolf: without a partner, I stand alone, cry wail QQ.

All emo aside, it’s actually a perplexing situation, and to explain this I’ll have to tell you a story…

Moment of shame, when I was applying to get into universities, I applied to 5 different universities.  1 fucked up my application, so I was don to 4.  After 3 disappointing auditions, I was down to the wire ’cause I knew this was my last shot.  If I messed that one up… well, life was not going to end well.

So here I come to the last audition.  I do the audition, which I was sure was mediocre at best, and then go home.  I thought I was done for; but lo and behold, the last university accepted me! I was ecstatic, and couldn’t believe I had improved that much… and then I found out I was the first Euphonium to apply to that school in 5 years.

Well, what does that say about me?

Since then I’ve improved greatly, but every time I take a step in the halls of the faculty, I can’t help but wonder if I got in for merit… or because I play a Euphonium.

With the exception of the bassoonist, no one else quite has the same problem, and even the bassoonist doesn’t quite have the same feeling: she’s brilliant beyond words, works way too hard, and it really pays off for her.  She’s easily one fo the best musicians on campus.

Me? Not so much.

So I try not to think about it too often, and look at it as a way to really show off what a Euphonium can do.  I think that’s what’s best; but am I strange to have even thought about it in the first place?

Nonetheless, I am incredibly thankful for the university taking me on.  Without them, I’d be lost on so many levels it’s not even funny; but it’s about time I show the school what I’m really capable of.  It’s about time to show them why the Euphonium is the best instrument there is.

It’s about time I put my considerable talent and skill to actual work, for the first time in years.  I’ll show them that they were right to take me on this year, this I promise you.

Well, That’s Cool.

Cooler than that, fo sho.

A+ in conducting.  Huh.  I guess I am a closet control freak.

I now own the world’s fuzziest blanket! It even reproduces more fuzzies. Everywhere.  It’s like blanket dandruf.

There’s something to be said about a character in a game that is able to single handedly 3 shot most people if he doesn’t get messed up too badly.  Also? He looks pretty badass.

I got a new Magic deck! This time, it’s Allies, a new type from Zendikar.  Cool part? It’s like balanced slivers: every ally gives a bonus to other allies whenever an ally or itself enters play.  Best part? One of them is a hunter.

Sir: “Oh look!  A bathrobe!”
Ma’am: “Put it on! Try it.”
Sir: “Where’s my belt?”
Ma’am: “There better be one!”
Me: “Yeah, ’cause there’s no way you could contain Sir without one.”
Everyone other than me: “…”

Me: “Wow Adam, that’s a really cool measuring tape? Can I see it?”
Adam: “Sure.  It comes with a self marking thing, a light, recoil absorbers…”
Me: “Sweet! Just holding this makes me feel manly.”
Sir: “But you don’t use them, puny man.”
Me: “… GOGO GADGET FLAMETHROWER!”

Merry Christmas everyone!

Strange Things

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There is something really weird that happens at 4 am.  You take a busy, lively city full of many peoples and cultures, and no matter what happens, 4 am is a time when the city dies.

Since I’m home, I can visit with my friends once in awhile like I used to: I’d go over to my buddy’s place, where there are like 4-5 other people, and we’d play video game together.  Once everyone was done at around 4, we’d all go home and sleep the night off.

The thing is, lately I’ve tried taking the busy streets home instead of the backstreets, which are normally bereft of life anytime past 9 pm.  Since this change of pace, I’ve noticed and now figured out what my favourite time of the day is, and it’s 4 am.

Tonight, I took a walk home that brought me to a main artery street of my city, and I was astounded by the lack of anything.  I took 3 minutes of my time to simply stand in the middle of a 4 lane road and dance and sing to myself, just to mock traffic that didn’t exist.  When I finally started walking home, I heard beeps of changing lights halfway down the street, 3 blocks away.  I heard the buzzing of street lamps, like angry bees waiting to be unleashed on all the soft, pink things that are under them during the day.  The rustling of a leaf across the street, something I would never normally hear, is crystal clear at 4 am.

The lack of people is also a strange thought: no matter what, I’ve always been surrounded by crowds when walking around this city, and to finally come across a time when no one is around… it’s strange.  It’s like I’m the last person on earth, and that I’m just stalling for time, pacing the city streets.  The only thing missing is a pile of zombies and it’d be a damn good horror movie.

Not only is it strange to not have anyone else around me, it’s also soothing and relaxing.  I don’t think I’ve heard such beautiful silence, only punctuated by beeps, rustles, and other night time noises you never hear during the noisy day.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so free of annoying crowds and people who think that this city is theirs to walk all over.  It’s nice to not be stuck behind someone you would rather punch in the back of the head, but can’t.

Lastly, there’s this feeling of complete serenity I get, like being the last man standing at the end of a long, tired fight that all the other fighters have gone home to lick their wounds.  It’s like the silence after a huge battle, but much less unnerving and with a sense of peace and quiet.

It’s strange, but a dead city is a relaxing one, and I want to see it at least once a week.  All the rest of the time, it’s a loud and noisy place with far too much going on for you to notice just how beautiful the city is for itself, rather than for it’s noise.