Poetry

My Head Aches

I imagine sex a lot.

Lot a sex, imagine I.

A lot sex, I imagine.

Imagine: I sex a lot.

Imagine sex, I a lot.

I lot imagine a sex.

Sex lot, I imagine a.

Sex imagine I a lot.

Imagine, imagine,

sex sex sex

sex sex

………………

sex.

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rambling

The Demons Gotta Go

Hey folks, thanks for stopping by. I’d like to ramble a bit about a particular video game I’ve been playing. Oh hell, there’s no point in drawing this out. I’ve been playing GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon.

If you’re scratching your head at this point and wondering what the heck that is, don’t worry – I went through a similar query almost ten years ago, when I first stumbled upon Getsu Fuma. For the quick answer: GetsuFumaDen was an action/hack and slash game made by Konami in 1987. It never released stateside, which mostly explains why I and my fellow Americans scratch their heads when they hear about it.

But wait – if GetsuFumaDen never released stateside, how the heck do I know what it is? Well, I love Castlevania. Konami, despite their recent slip-ups, will forever be thanked by me for bestowing the awesomeness of Castlevania on the world. While Castlevania took off like a leaping flea-man, er, a rocket, GetsuFumaDen stood alone, as though it was waiting for hell to be unleashed upon the world, ready to swing a sword at monstrous demons with deadly precision … but first things first.

For what was to be his final official Castlevania game developed for Konami, Koji Igarashi pulled out all the stops and delivered a multi-generational, time-bending tour-de-force that featured protagonists from almost every Castlevania game. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair freaked me out at first, but only because I didn’t understand how the game worked, or how fun cooperative games could be. I’d spent most of my life getting lost in solitary endeavors, traipsing through huge worlds and downing the forces of evil on my own. So when a co-op Castlevania game came out, I was real confused.

Until my friend invited me to play the game with him over Xbox Live, that is. I soon got the hang of cutting monsters to ribbons with my friend, and my brother, and any random folks who joined our sessions. It turns out that teamwork can be fun, and rewarding.

We played the shit out of the game. We harmonized our despairs perfectly, and soon Dracula himself was weeping tears of blood on the floors of Hell.

Grisly melodrama aside, we did commit to the grind, and soon enough we agreed that we wanted more content. Thankfully, Koji Igarashi and his awesome team were working on more stuff, and by the time the game was “complete,” there were 11 stages and even more characters!

The final DLC pack included a mysterious character named Getsu Fuma. The artwork for him depicted a samurai wielding a katana. Yet when I picked this demon-slaying warrior, he entered the stage as an 8-bit sprite. He was shorter than other characters (great for evasion!), and he didn’t have too many bells and whistles – he always used his katana, so I didn’t need to farm for different weapons. What I did have to do was level up his magic attacks, which, when strengthened, also strengthened his katana.

At least, that’s how I remember him. My interest in Getsu Fuma was piqued, and I looked into him … only to discover that GetsuFumaDen came out in 1987, had still not made it to the states, and stood alone as the only game in its “series.” It technically wasn’t even a series. But damn, it sounded cool – a samurai who fights the demonic forces of Hell? It’s everything I enjoy!

So all those years ago, I learned that Belmonts aren’t the only ones who take up arms against the hellish night. Vampire killers and monster hunters come from all sorts of different cultures, and I appreciate all of them.

Which is why, when I saw that a “sequel” to GetsuFumaDen was in the works, I was over the moon. Little did I know that I’d be over an undying moon. The name of the new game, 34 years later, is GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon, and it’s fucking rad.

“So what is it, Chris?,” I hear my imagined audience asking in my head, “Is it an action game? A platformer? A hack and slash bloodfest?!”

Yes to all of the above questions. The game combines all the things I’ve loved over my gaming life, as well as some things I’ve grown to love over the past few years. I know I haven’t written about a lot of my recent gaming experiences here, but I’ll use this sentence to proclaim my love for roguelike games.

Whoa, what? Yeah, I’ve become a glutton for punishment. When I finally got a decent gaming pc in the winter of 2019, I downloaded Steam, which has been a window into an ever-widening world of awesome indie games. While looking for something that fits my interests (2D, platforming, action-packed, challenging), I came across some Reddit posts gushing about Dead Cells. So I bought it, and sweet lord, I was hooked. I’ve hopped into Risk of Rain 2 as well, and Enter the Gungeon, and oh my gods how could I forget Hades? My point is, I’ve played a lot of randomized games lately, and uh … they’re strangely compelling and fun.

And GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is a roguelike. Or maybe it’s a roguelite? I don’t really make this distinction too often, but I’m sure there are diehard roguelike fans who would mince these terms … I don’t worry too much. The game features randomized elements, mostly in the form of weapon and material drops, with level layouts changing a little bit each time as well.

The randomness makes the grind extra important; if I’m going to get stuck with a weapon I don’t usually use, it’s ideal for me if I’ve upgraded it at least a little bit. I definitely have favorites: the katana is my favorite primary weapon, and the bombs and guns are my favorite secondary weapons (oh my, I’m bringing modern weaponry to bear on the demons). A lot of the challenge comes down to moveset memorization: if I know what an enemy can do, I can react to it accordingly. If I see three enemies arranged just so, I need to know what they can do so I don’t get clawed to ribbons by a hungry oni and their friends.

I love games like this; the ones that push me to play over and over until I’m almost perfect, slicing and dicing and dodging and living until the end. That’s what Undying Moon feels like right now. It’s got the challenges I love with the aesthetics I crave. I’m gonna play it right friggin’ now.

P.S. The original GetsuFumaDen is finally available in the U.S., for folks who buy the new game in early access; I forgot to mention that the game is still being developed, but I was so stoked to experience it that I bought it anyway. I was gifted with the original game. I’ll be killing 34-year-old demons soon enough.

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Poetry

Elements of Being

Heart of fire,
mind like water,
seeping into everything,
fitting most containers
and remaining itself.

My brain douses my heart.
More often than not,
I overthink
my life into oblivion,
so action becomes tiresome
and I stay inert.

I may need to jump into something –
to leap from a mountaintop
and let inertia carry me.
My thoughts can’t
tarry me,
and it’s time I
let my heart be a lantern.

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rambling

Something About Stagnation

Hey everyone, I’m here to reminisce and ramble about my youth. If you’re curious about some of the factors that influenced me, read on; if not, that’s cool, and I hope you have a pleasant day.

For the most part, I grew up in suburbia. I lived in various apartments with my family until I was nine years old, when my mom moved us almost all the way across the country to a high desert place called Reno, Nevada. The man who would become my stepdad owned a house in a south Reno suburb, and it was in that house that I would come of age and take on most of the qualities that make me, well, me.

The house was red, like a stereotypical North American barn, and one of my classmates found it hilarious to point this out. I became proud of the house, because it was mine. Sort of. I shared a room with my younger brother and our stepbrother, and despite our lack of bedroom space, we had a lot of cool shit. I had a Super NES back in Florida, and I was beyond stoked when I walked into my new living space and saw a Nintendo 64 in the game room. I say “in the game room” like that’s a normal thing, but I know that a room dedicated to gaming is a luxury. I want to say “upper-middle class luxury” but I’m not sure how these hierarchies and stratifications work anymore.

Anyway, the N64 was the first of our fancy things. The backyard (another fancy thing) featured a few small boulders for climbing, a playset replete with swings and a slide, and an honest-to-goodness trampoline. A fucking trampoline. I’m actually not sure how fancy or expensive a trampoline is, but all my new friends assured me that the trampoline was cool. There was also a hot tub, but over the years, no one maintained it and we had to decommission it.

Later, I would receive the benefits of a modest middle class upbringing, such as a stable internet connection, a computer of my own, and a mini fridge. (It feels weird to say “middle class,” since the middle class is disappearing super fast, but at the time I think we were in the middle class. Things to think about.) With the eventual departure of both my stepsisters (they chose to live with their biological mother), I did receive my own room. I keep saying that I got all these nice things, but it may be pertinent to point out that many of them were handed down from one person to another.

I’m trying to make it sound like I wasn’t a privileged person, and I’m failing, because I was/am privileged. I had almost every popular video game console under the sun, and my voracious appetite for books was never denied – my mom would take me to the book store when I wanted more stuff to read. I stopped going to school for a whole year, fucked up the online class substitutions, and still managed to graduate high school on time. Some of this was hard work, sure, but I can’t help but acknowledge that I’ve received a lot of generosity and understanding.

I’m writing this piece because yesterday, I visited the home of one of my longest-standing childhood friends. We began our friendship because he was a friend of my stepbrother, and our collective connections have remained steadfast throughout the years. My friend’s parents still live in the same neighborhood that we all grew up in, so going to their house is a great nostalgia inducer.

Speeding up a bit: due to my old, tired phone, I missed a few crucial text messages about our meeting. I showed up forty-five minutes early, and when I finally thought to turn my phone off and on again, I realized I had about forty minutes to spare before my friend showed up.

It’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with my friend’s parents; they’re good people, and conversing with them is relatively easy. It’s just that I didn’t want to inconvenience them; they’re magnificent hosts, and I know they wouldn’t have minded if I walked in the house before their son, but I wanted to wait for my friend. The connective tissue that holds me and his parents in the same cosmic space.

Also, I really wanted to see the old neighborhood. When I lived there, I loved to walk around, absorbing what I now know are the hallmarks of people with money to spare: lush gardens, well-maintained yards, a car or two or three in the driveway, dogs in backyards. Lots of lights. Grills everywhere. I never felt weird when I walked through the old neighborhood – another sign I can retroactively chalk up to my privilege.

When my brother and I finally moved out of our parents’ house and into an apartment, I didn’t go for walks nearly as often as I used to. While I can pretend it’s because I didn’t have as much free time as I used to, it’s mostly and actually because I never got used to the apartment landscape. Big numbers of people crammed into small boxes and forced to make do with small spaces? I’m uncomfortable just thinking about it. So instead of embracing my new living area, I stayed inside and festered away with my thoughts.

If you’ve read some of my older stuff, you may know that I moved into a house a few months ago. It’s not my house – I don’t have the money for such an extravagant purchase – but I am once again living in a house, thanks to my brother. You’d think I might be inclined to go on walks again, but the funny thing is, my brother’s house is close to downtown Reno. It’s not in a suburb, it’s in a weird cul-de-sac that’s attached to one of the bigger thoroughfares in the city.

And as much as I’m loathe to admit it, it’s the suburban walks that I miss. While I wended my way through the neighborhood I grew up in, I saw sights that tugged on my nostalgia and covered me in memories. The house that had a ground-floor window that looked in on a kid’s Xbox setup; the place that was in the middle of a remodel but had now been finished; the house where I played Bomberman 64 with a boy a few years older than me; houses that used to have familiar names on them, that are now missing those names (hopefully due to a successful move); the house where I watched the younger child of a family friend; and of course, the house where my longstanding friend grew up.

All these memories tied to houses, all these houses home to stories, pivotal points of growth and departure in their own ways. Despite my misgivings, I attach too much importance to houses.

Or do I? My political beliefs and my ideals fall somewhere on the left, if I’m not mistaken. The far left. Screw it, I’ll claim it: I think and believe like a communist. And an anarchist. A Marxist, for sure. I believe that every person deserves a clean and comfortable place to live, money be damned.

I have very little money of my own, and I hate the corporatized work ethics that have taken hold in the United States. Most of us spend too much time worrying about where our next meals are coming from, and that’s a problem. That’s a failure of the system, though I realize that it’s actually a success of the shitty exploitative system that our greedy elites have set up … but I digress. It suffices to say that I think like an anti-establishment person.

But I live like a coward, holed up in my room in a house my brother bought and waxing poetical about the plights of the masses. I don’t go outside and fight for my beliefs, I don’t garden like I want to, and my dream of sharing books with people languishes on my bookshelf while I play video games.

It’s possible I’m too hard on myself, but the reality is that I wish for a new world, a new and better way of connecting to my comrades, but I have a history of putting my own personal comfort above my revolutionary desires. I hide. I am the white moderate.

And all of these thoughts coalesced because I took a walk through an older, more affluent neighborhood, wherein I used to live, whereby I became who I am, and now I am wondering how to square my ideals with my reality.

I love my friend, and his parents. They worked hard to get the things they have. I’ve also worked hard, in my own way, and I enjoy relative privilege and comfort. This is why, as I float through life, I want to do something to help people. To set up a community library, to grow a big-ass garden and share the literal fruits of my labor.

I think too much. I need to act.

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Poetry

Financial Musings

Is it weird that I’m proud of my wallet?
Not saying I value money above all –
I just really enjoy how streamlined my wallet is.

As an object, but also an extension of myself,
the wallet is pleasing. It holds only what it needs;
would that I could be more like my wallet.
To consciously open myself, and shake out
all the extraneous thoughts and habits, to expel
the effluvia of bygone days.

With more thinking, I suppose I should admit
that my wallet also holds all the hooks
of the corporatist state. My ID, my Barnes & Noble
membership, my voter registration card …
my wallet is actually an arm of the state apparatus.
And I’ve allowed it to dig its hooks into me.

Shit.

I hope that when I drive through the richer neighborhoods,
uppity folks wonder at the state of my car:
the rumbling of the engine, the always-open window, the
loose sun visor hanging in my face (quite a liability, really).
The age of it – almost twenty years old, my word! – is
the most damning truth. How can that man
be driving through this neighborhood?

I have friends in places much higher than my own.
They’re generous enough to welcome me
on their own turf, but it is all turf.
I hate hierarchies, but right now,
I can’t escape them.
So I drive through them, noting their
wending and winding roads,
and enjoying the places
that should be free and open
to everyone.

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