Pokemon is a Go

13 Jul

Who would have thought that a simple, silly game would ever make me as happy as it has for the last few days?

Pokemon Go has been good for my social life, my marriage, and my health. (Well, it’s good for relieving my anxiety as long as the app is functioning properly… Haha)

Phil and I have been bonding in such a new, special way, as we’ve been spending lots of time together playing Pokémon Go. At night, our neighborhood becomes aglow with the pink confetti of the lures at the Pokestops along Vermont Avenue. Even when we’re tired, we have been walking between three and four miles a day to catch these fictional creatures, to defend the “Gym” at the Starbucks around the corner and even to meet new friends. It turns out that the loads of other people playing the game are generally very inclusive and kind hearted! The overall spirit of the adorable game seems to be just that: just be nice.

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In addition to the additional exercise and the new “gaming” element between us, it has prompted friendly competition as we each try to out perform the other. As a result, Phil and I have a major rule for Pokémon Go. If we’re in the car, the driver obviously can’t play, so the passenger either has to play both phones—or doesn’t play at all. :P

Clearly, I like many others, have become completely enraptured by Pokémon Go. (Level 17, Team Mystic represent, thank you very much.) But despite my status as a Millennial, this almost did not happen.

See, when it comes to overnight fads, I’ve always been a little slow to adapt and often a hard skeptic. I think it’s the residual teenage rebellion in me, refusing to conform to the masses. Someone either needs to strongly urge me to try it for myself or I somehow, almost too late, cave to the fear of being left out.

So, to back up for a second, for the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is everywhere. Head outside, and if you’re anywhere near people, you’ve probably seen groupings of people staring at their phones, hunting and catching Pokémon that appear through the Augmented reality app. The game is actually as intriguing as it is entertaining and it’s been a big deal for Nintendo, whose value as company has apparently increase by $7.5 billion (give or take) since last week.

I’m married to Phil Hornshaw, a video games journalist, who seems to be on the up and up with pretty much everything entertainment. He encouraged me to download the game the say it came out, and while I refused, I followed he and some friends around Barnstall Park, catching Zubats. I was watching them have loads of fun, as still I was actively avoiding checking it out for myself.

This is namely because:
1) I never played Pokémon as a kid and so I assumed it would be too complicated for me to play. Back in the day, Pokemon just didn’t hook me the way that other 90s fads like Tomagatchis, Beanie Babies and bad pop music did. (Despite this, though, the card game, toys and animated TV series were embedded enough into the pop culture lexicon that I knew a thing or two. For instance: that the little yellow guy with the red cheeks and the lightening power is Pikachu, that the little bubbly turtle is named Squirtle, and that there was also this fat, gassy purple guy named Koffing who also happened to yell “Koffing.” But overall, I don’t know anything about how the world works or how the Pokémon “work.”

2) I felt weird about playing the game in the midst of everything currently happening in our culture. I’m referring to last week’s on-camera deaths of Philado Castile and Alton Sterling by police and the ongoing backlash as a result. It felt weird that so many people on my Facebook feed were posting about a silly game while #BlackLivesMatter protests were happening across the country.

Phil, who seemed to know that I’d enjoy playing the game, that it would make me happy, and made a deal with me. He reluctantly agreed to go get a pedicure with me if I downloaded Pokemon Go and gave it a try. I also, at some point, had the now fairly obvious realization that just because I’m enjoying myself by playing a game, it doesn’t mean I’m not outraged by the status quo. It doesn’t mean that I can’t still do my best to support the cause. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.

I’ve been learning how to play as I go—and lucky for me, the rules haven’t been too difficult to grasp. The game doesn’t come with a manual, so I think everyone has had to play with it a bit. Again, as mentioned previously, other players we’ve encountered have been very nice and excited to share their discoveries with us.

I’ve noticed from social media that there seem seem to generally be two camps when it comes to the game: Those that play and love it and those who don’t and hate it. (See: “When everyone’s posting about Pokemon Go, but you can’t relate because you’re not 10 and have shit to do.”) The way I see it though is that all of us have lives and jobs and happen to have found something new and fun to fill our spare time. No one is forcing you to play. There are zero medals awarded for being a curmudgeonly turd, so just let people be happy and excited as they enjoy themselves.

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Can’t. Stop. Playing.

Only in Hollywood

6 Nov

About once every month, My husband Phil and I mix things up by going and seeing a movie on a weeknight.

Last night, it was an especially unusual circumstance, though, because we ended up going to a very early showing: 5 p.m. With this being my quieter time at work, my hours are a little more flexible. Phil saw the opportunity for us to beat a nighttime rush at The Vista, one of our neighborhood’s beautiful, single screened old theaters.

The movie was Christopher Nolan’s new movie “Interstellar,” and sadly, the 2 1/2 hour adventure into space wasn’t as much fun as we’d hoped. Because we live in Hollywood, though, and you never know who’s within ear-reach, we tend to keep our voices low when making criticisms in public.

The reason I even bring up this now pretty forgettable night at the movies, though, isn’t really about the movie at all.

Before The Vista’s velvety curtains opened up, the lights dimmed and the trailers started to play, I happened to look over and spot something kind of weird. There was a guy sitting to my left and, I could tell based on the way the text was arranged on the screen, that he was working on his screenplay. A few moments later, it dawned on me that he was more-so talking about the fact that he was working on his screenplay. Loudly. So that everyone around him could hear.

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While, it’s actually laughably common to see all kinds of people, all of the time in cafes and coffee shops, clicking and clacking away on screenplays, I had never in my life seen this happen in a movie theater. I just never would have expected that–it just seemed kind of sacrilegious?

Only in Hollywood.

I’m just glad he put his writing (or “writing”) away before the movie got rolling.

Too Cool In School

5 Nov

Proverbs can be enlightening and inspiring; helpful to the human spirit. I’m talking about the kind of wisdom that’s so astute, you can paint it onto a wooden sign or a coffee cup and sell it on Etsy.

I can’t say that they haven’t had an impact, but I will admit that I’ve seldom found comfort or aid in the generic, mundane witticisms that I’ve heard my parents say time and again: “Practice makes perfect,” “A penny saved is a penny earned,” “honesty is the best policy,” etc.

It’s not necessarily a proverb, but I’ve recently realized a truth in my own human experience to which I’m sure many can relate: The friends you’ve had since you were young are the best friends, because they’re the ones that stuck around even when you were at your darkest and strangest.

Can’t you see that cross stitched onto a pillow in some old lady’s house?

Today my friend Matt Teague dropped me a line via text message. I was surprised and excited to see his name pop up on my phone’s screen–the two of us haven’t really corresponded in awhile.

He had some good news: He was offered a job at a company he’s always wanted to work for–and he accepted the position. He’s currently in the process of packing up and getting ready to move to Grand Rapids, where the job is located.

In the process of cleaning out and going through his old stuff, he came upon my school ID from my senior year of high school. He texted me a photo of the rare gem and I had a good laugh about it.

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When I was in my later years of high school, I had a lot of angst. I was depressed and anxious, I felt trapped and like no one understood who I was. I wrote a lot of poetry and attended a lot of local concerts with my friends. In a fit of rebellion against my parents, I cut my hair short, I would steal single cigs from my mom’s boxes of Misty 120 Menthol Lights, I pierced my belly button and my tongue. I think I thought I was pretty hardcore.

This photo pretty well illustrates that time of my life. Stainless steel “ball” jewelry, a local band shirt, my weird short hair, that look on my face.

Through thick and thin, weird and weirder, Matt’s been my friend. I just have to say: thanks for that, guy.

Trick Or Treat!

31 Oct

“We’re in love. We just want to be together. What’s wrong with that?”

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Not pictured: my saddle shoes, which lend an extra layer of authenticity to my costume

Nickelodeon Nostalgia

30 Oct

When I was a kid, the cable network Nickelodeon was always on our TV.

Even now, when I look back on my childhood, Nickelodeon stands out as an important piece. It could probably be argued that it played in important role in raising my sister and I—and I’m sure it made babysitting an easy gig. I always get nostalgic when I think about it.

Side Note: We weren’t supposed to eat in our “Family Room,” home to the ‘big screen’ TV. Often on weeknights, though, if we were “good,” Mom would let us eat our home cooked meals or the occasional Kid Cuisine in there so we could also watch our shows (Usually “Doug” and “Rugrats.”) The catch was, though, was that we’d be in BIG trouble in we made a mess.

In recent years, I’ve come to realize how difficult it is to articulate what it meant to be a kid growing up in the 1990s. The explanation tends to center around Nick (channel 33 in our house’s pre-digital cable days), and is told in a fashion that feels as chaotically thrown together as the programming itself.

Nickelodeon was an eclectic, messy place, where kids ruled and grown-ups weren’t allowed. The shows were a strange mix—there were game shows (like “Wild & Crazy Kids,” “Nick Arcade,” “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and “GUTS”), live action series with bizarre story lines mostly about misfit rebels (“Pete & Pete,” “Clarissa Explains it All,” “Salute Your Shirts,” “Hey Dude,” “The Secret World of Alex Mack”) and Nick’s own brand of cartoons, they called “Nick Toons”—all of which tended to involve gross out humor (“Ren & Stimpy,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “Rugrats.”)

What Nick’s blend of programming all had in common, though, was that it was tailor-made for our generation and it encouraged us to stay true to ourselves, while also making us feel good about ourselves. Nick’s shows focused on regular kids with larger-than-life imaginations, just like us. They revolved around characters that were kind of offbeat, smart and creative—characters I would love to be friends with. These shows somehow made me feel normal and extraordinary at the same time.

In 1992, Nickelodeon created a programming block from 8 p.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday nights called SNICK. I lived for SNICK because that’s when my absolute favorite show aired: “Are You Afraid of The Dark?” AYAOTD was an anthology TV series about a group of kids who called themselves “The Midnight Society,” who would gather around a campfire and tell scary stories every week.

So, naturally, when I recently discovered that The Cinefamily was going to be playing episodes of “Are You Afraid of The Dark” on the big screen at The Silent Movie Theater for Halloween, I HAD to go.

Standing in line for the event earlier this week, I met some fellow nerds. One in particular told me an amazing story about his visit to the “Pete & Pete” house in New Jersey many years ago. Apparently, he went when he was still pretty young, and a local person seemed very excited that someone, a young fan, had recognized the house. He said that this woman told him that they had only had one or two fans come by before. She reached into the bushes and pulled out what he recognized as the gnome that appears in the opening credits of the show, most of the paint had chipped off with time.

He also told me about something called “Nick Reboot.” “Prepare to have your mind blown,’ he said.

Nick Reboot is a website that streams Nickelodeon as it appeared on TV in the 90’s and early 2000’s almost 24 hours a day. The catch is that you don’t have any control of you want to watch. Everything is queued up and streamed as if it were a real TV network—classic toy and food commercials included!

I’m a fan and Nick Reboot now regularly runs in the background while I’m at work.

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When I was little, I used to dream about our family taking vacation to Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida. Sadly, We never made it out there, and I remember jealously listening to other kids tell me about how they were slimed or saw the “Clarissa Explains It All” set. A few years ago, though, Phil gave me what I consider to be the next best thing: a vintage Nickelodeon Studios T-shirt. I don’t think I have ever gotten so many compliments on anything I own as much as I did on my Nickelodeon Studios T-shirt at the “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” event.

The event itself was pretty great, too.
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Throughout the night, The Cinefamily played four different episodes of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” The way it was set-up, though, is that he had 8 episodes total available. The audience was able to vote on which episode they wanted to watch.

I was most excited about the fact that the audience chose the episode “The Tale of The Midnight Madness,” a movie theater themed episode featuring the recurring character Dr. Vink.

The event was supposed to begin at 10, but things didn’t really get rolling until 10:45. Because it was a school night—I didn’t get to stay for the whole event. I’ve been streaming episodes of the show on Amazon Prime to make up for the loss.