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Anniversary of Upheaval

Lj and I arrived in the Great Northwest three years ago, today.

We are on our second apartment, our second vehicle, our second AFK, but still the same core jobs and circle of friends, which in many ways are the important bits. I say core jobs because Lj lost her full-time gig 6 or so months after we moved, and switched to doing RGG bookkeeping and freelance layout full time, and I  have become the project manager at Rite since then. We have had two dear friends move nearby, lost another dear friend, and in many ways I still feel like we are finding our feet.

The only things I miss from our lives in Norman, Oklahoma are a few people, a few restaurants… and certainty.

We knew, in broad terms, what every week, every holiday, and every season would bring. We had strong, long-established social systems that had gone on without major change for decades. Progress was difficult, but so was confusion. Our lives were a known factor, though it was kept at a set level we didn’t seem to be able to rise above.

There are many ways in which we have adjusted. We know more people, have local connections, and get invited to many more things. There are ways in which we haven’t. It turns out 20 years of freelance game writing habits don’t die easily, and I still get grumpy when I can’t take a nap in the middle of a workday at the office. But I AM adjusting.

When we first arrived out here, we also both started getting sick a lot. In 2016 alone I had two trips to the ER and nearly a dozen to urgent care, on top of regular doctor visits. But the last of those was last August, and I haven’t had a major illness since.

This move was a huge step outside of our comfort zone. We sold our house, the majority of our possessions,  and moved away from our most solid core of close family and friends. I’d lived in Norman for 43 or 44 years before I left. That one year exception was 2000-2001, when I was hired by WotC to work on the Star Wars game and that was still what I  was doing when they laid me off 14 months later.

Now I’ve been working for Paizo for 36 months. I began as the developer in charge of the module line, then transitioned over to the Player Companions, and then got to be one of the Design Leads for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. I have grown quite a bit as a game developer and designer in three years, and these are opportunities I would not have had back in Oklahoma.  We have also made some awesome new friends, strengthened existing friendships, and just barely begun to build some social momentum again.

I mentioned to my wife just yesterday that I haven’t adjusted yet. she snorted and pointed out it’s been three years. She’s right… but so am I. Not quickly do I become comfortable in a new environment.

Despite that, and seeing the financial and psychological havoc it’s played with our long-term plans, I am a bit amazed we took this huge leap. In many ways that’s not our style. But I continue to be convinced that this was a good move for me and my wife.

Being me, I also worry about it a lot. 🙂

Huge thanks to everyone who has pitched in, invited us over, helped out, and just shared a smile now and then to the transplants from OK.


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Introvert Tightrope Tango

I am an introvert who easily gets lonely and depressed.
(And by “Gets Depressed” I mean has fairly dark bouts of normal depression. My clinical depression is a separate issue, which only therapy and potentially chemicals can help. That’s not what I am talking about here).
Those two traits often work against each other. Being with a group cheers me up but being around people, even a group of friends, takes a lot of energy from me. Being alone gives me energy… which I then sometimes spend on being lonely and depressed.
This is a complex tightrope for me to walk.
Now there are people who take much, much less energy for me to be around. A rare few even maybe that take no energy, if they are the only folks around. My wife Lj is one, as is RGG partner and dear friend Stan!. Some of my best friends in Norman are the same way — one reason leaving was so hard.
The AFK E&E managed to not take energy from me most nights, which is why losing it was such a blow for me.
SO, to manage my balance of introversion and depression, I need to socialize, but I need to do it carefully.
Last night I managed to spend some after-work time having drinks with some smart and awesome people. That certainly took energy, but it was also some high-end socializing. The energy was very well-spent, and I hope to find ways to do Drinks with Smart People more often, as a high-end option for trading energy for social experiences, and to get to know people better.
Today I’m going to go spend time with some people I theoretically don’t know as well as my Norman friends or Stan!… but who have been very caring and good to me. And who, somehow, seem to give me energy rather than take it. That’s an amazing quality in a friend, and I can only chalk it up to how spectacularly good people they all are.
That’s a good weekend for me. I may need to become a hermit Sunday, but I’ll be a happy hermit.

My Last Duty to the E&E

If it’s easy, it’s not a quest.
The night AFTER the AFK Elixirs & Eatery, my second home, closed, we discovered that there had been so much stuff to haul out, a second truck load was being filled by one of the owners and some volunteers. It was late, she’d been awake for 36 hours or so, the truck was filling up, and time was running out. We talked to another owner, and offered to made a run to bring the lady still working in the E&E some food, and asked if we could help grab anything.
She asked us to save the huge collection of Dragon magazines, and any props we found that wouldn’t fit in the rapidly full moving truck.
The place was at its least tidy, and the volunteer crew that were trying to fit everything left into the truck were focusing on big-ticket plasma big screen TVs, game consoles, computers, and high-end restaurant gear. Props was a distant fourth.
So, we were given carte blanche to grab what we could stuff in our car, and we promised to get it to the AFK Tavern.
That ended up being eight magazine holders of Dragon. a real greatsword, a replica sword, a replica Halo energy sword, a replica bat’leth, a Lego Death Star, a Boba Fett helmet, two shield wall hangers, a custom BFG prop, a custom Steampunk Rifle, a working toy Star Wars blaster… and I think that’s it.
It was all awesome, and I’d have enjoyed keeping any of it. But I want to support the AFK Tavern any way I can, and my mementos from the AFK Elixirs & Eatery are some menus (one signed by nearly all the staff and owners, and a lot of the regulars, as my “Yearbook” from the very last night, when I got to run the restaurant for a few hours), and two comfortable upholstered chairs.
We meant to run these things up to the Tavern, which is on average an hour drive from us, within a couple of days. But I got sick right after we got the stuff, and ended up going to the ER a bit later, and have been too sick to do anything much less make an hour-long trip. I’ve only now been able to return these items this weekend, and even though Lju did all the driving I admit it took a lot out of me.
But a quest is a quest. And this one, from the Ruins of E&E to the Vaults of the Tavern, is done.

The End of an Era

AFK Elixirs & Eatery​ closes forever this Sunday.
The owners of the building have sold it, the new owners aren’t renewing the lease. This is sudden, and nothing could have avoided it.
I alluded to this earlier in the week. This is the massive blow to my equilibrium, the loss of something that has really come to define who I am as a Seattle resident.
I  cannot overstate how crucial the AFK E&E has been for me. When I moved, I was floundering. I don’t adjust well to new social situations, I’m an introvert, a depressive, and I suffer social anxiety. I was leaving my family and friends, gaming groups that have run for 30 years, and support networks I hadn’t realized were propping me up and keeping me sane.
The E&E replaced all of that. It gave me a save sanctuary, where I was never judged, always welcome, and never felt out-of-place.
A safe place, for geeks and gamers, just like it said on the sign
It has been the center of my social life. My living room, clubhouse, office, and therapists couch. I spend holidays and birthdays there, and many of my best new friends are owners and staff.
And now, it has just two days left before it is gone for good.
I’ll be there this evening, and again tomorrow night. I’ll play games, hoist glasses, and shed tears.
My eternal thanks to the owners and staff, who are impacted in ways much more serious than my psychological loss. You all made me feel like a king, in a world where I am often treated like a leper.
I love you all.

A Typical Day at Paizo

It’s just like working anywhere else.

AFK E&E “Advanced Guide” Drink Review: Jedi in the Street, Sith in the Sheets

I’ll be reviewing the drinks from the Advanced Guide menu at the AFK Elixirs and Eatery. Every drink is reviewed only after I have had one, drunk from start to finish.
Clearly the “Jedi in the Street, Sith in the Sheets” wants to be both geek-mainstream and a bit naughty. It’s a drop shot (a shot that you drop into a slammer glass of other liquid), of vanilla vodka, cherry vodka and grenadine dropped into Ultra Blue Monster and blue caracao.
That *ought* to be too much, but the bartender who blended this recipe knew what she was doing. The end result is definitely a strong mixed drink, but it’s eminently sippable. It goes particularly well with a simple side or a dessert, which makes it a nice “hanging out and playing games” drink, perfect for the AFK.
One of my favorites.

AFK E&E “Advanced Guide” Drink Review: Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster

I’ll be reviewing the drinks from the Advanced Guide menu at the AFK Elixirs and Eatery. Every drink is reviewed only after I have had one, drunk from start to finish.
The Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster is just about the only drink on the Advanced Guide I’ve had versions of before. This has been making the Convention circuit for decades on one form or another. Most are terrible.
The AFK E&E version is gin, tequila, triple sec, 151, blue curacao, grenadine, bitters, Sprite and, of course, lemons.
According to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, drinking one should be like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.
There’s definitely some of that here. This has a strong alcoholic taste, and packs a bit of a punch. To my surprise it is neither too sweet nor too sour. With that many distilled spirits you can’t expect to note more than “booze” flavor, and you get it. But the mix does manage to give it an actual vaguely-citrus flavor and independent character, which I enjoyed.
IN any case, it’s namesake is a classic, putting this high on the list of Geek Drinks you should try… if you have a ride home.

AFK E&E “Advanced Guide” Drink Review: Sonic Screwdriver (4th Doctor)

I’ll be reviewing the drinks from the Advanced Guide menu at the AFK Elixirs and Eatery. (With thanks to Stan! and Andy Collins, for the suggestion.) Every drink is reviewed only after I have had one, drunk from start to finish.
There are numerous “Sonic Screwdrivers,” and this one is the “4th Doctor” version.
Cherry vodka, orange juice, and cranberry juice.
Sweet, but not cloying. Surprisingly smooth. Mild alcoholic bite. Warms the insides nicely.

AFK E&E Drink Review: Star Lord

I’ll be reviewing the drinks from the Advanced Guide Drinks menu at the AFK Elixirs and Eatery. Every drink is reviewed only after I have had one, drunk from start to finish.
The Star Lord is gin, white rum, citron vodka, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and sweet and sour.
It ended up tasting like Hard Grapefruit-Aid to me, though there’s no grapefruit in it. It’s sharp, with a pronounced citrus flavor and a good alcoholic kick.