Let’s Play Pretend

Adventures / Childhood fantasies / Just Plain Random Weirdness

I may be pushing the Big 5-0 but as it never really sank in that I was an actual, real-life “growed up” until I turned 40 that make me more like 8. Right?

A Facebook (and RL friend) posted a series of wonderful watercolors last week that depicted images of children playing Pretend. Nerdy Childhood I was taken back to my own childhood when we ran around the forbidden lumber yard that was our playground, leaping immortally from one twenty foot stack of swaying lumber to another, with sticks making ‘Pew-pew-pew’ sounds as if shooting ray guns.  We adopted such names as Annie12 or Robert36, adapting to the popular television series of the time, “Logan’s Run” of which I was a HUGE! fan.  We also played our home grown version of “Planet of the Apes” and the more common, Cowboys and Indians.  As I was often the sole girl involved in these games of pretend, I found myself tied to a lot of trees or locked in jail so I could be rescued by one or another of the ‘big strong boys’.

We never got too fancy like today’s modern LARPers, (Live Action Role Players) who seem to think they’d stumbled upon some sort of new amusement by dressing up and carrying fake weapons and thumping each other with them. Sorry, I was doing that back in the 1970’s, guys. Best weapon ever; a thin, green branch – not too thin but just enough to be nice and springy. Willow worked really well, just saying. When properly loaded with a small, half-rotten apple these bad boys left bruises and you arrived home with enough rancid apple sauce on you to require a change of clothes and a shower. Headshots were common and though the most gratifying for the shooter, they were the least pleasant for the kid on the receiving end.

There are those that would argue that as we get older and grow-up, these games of Pretend are tossed to the wayside and left behind like so many Barbie dolls and stacks of Legos. As adults we are supposed to focus on work, making ourselves a home, driving cars, paying bills and all in all, being responsible without the annoyance of fantasy and imagination clouding up our more mature minds. To those people I place my thumbs to my temples with my fingers wagging in the air, stick out my tongue and give the Raspberry Salute! Neener-neener.

As Foghorn Leghorn might say, “Who, I say, who in their right mind would give up a part of their lives that brought them so much joy?” NOT IT!

Computers were just coming into fashion when I graduated from high school, a-way back in 1984. Along with Pong and Tank, Space Invaders and Pac Man there were the earliest versions of what we now call, First Person Shooters. The graphics on these babies left something to the imagination, but that was okay, we’d imagined ourselves to many places before then. If I could imagine a twig to be a space age ray gun, it wasn’t much of a stretch to see myself as that little blip of a man made up of 16 pixels.  My favorite game of this sort of “Questron”.  Hours upon hours were spent hunkered down in my mom’s home office in the semi-darkness playing black jack, getting into fights, robbing stores and, of course, battling beasties with my 3 pixel sword!

The next level of Pretend for me was when I was in my early twenties and I was introduced to the world of LambdaMOO. Holy Hook-Up, Batman! You mean I can do Text-based RPG with OTHER PEOPLE via this new technology called ‘The Web’? How crazy is that?  I can type on my computer at home, someone in the UK can read what I type only moments later and reply almost instantly?!  Sweet, baby Jesus, make it so!  My first character in this new and wonderful world was Lady Vivianne, a pale and powerful vampire mistress. Of course, everything you created in these MOO worlds was text-based so they attracted a lot of creative writer types. It gave you a chance to spread your wings and put yourself smack dab in the middle of one of your own stories as the main character! Better still, you could connect your little corner of the MOO to the corners of others! It was a seemingly endless series of homes, caves, oceans, cemeteries, clubs, pubs, forests and unfathomable dimensions of time and space.  “Hello, my name is Pam and I’m a MOO-Addict.” Yes, for a time it was that bad. For the few years I was mainlining these sorts of places I always thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had graphics as well as text for something like this?”

When AOL came out with their chat rooms, the population and popularity of the MOOs took a definable nose dive. Instead of having to wait in the queue to get logged in because traffic was so heavy, you would be instantly connected only to find maybe a hundred or so others logged in. And half of those had been idle for over a week. Another quarter might be active but secreted away in their little worlds and if you were really lucky, you could find maybe a dozen or so willing to interact with you.

By now, I was married with children and doing the Growed-Up things that were expected of me. I went to work. I did housework. I took care of the kids, paid my bills, bought cars and a house.  For many years the world of Pretend was enacted with my children. Match Box cars and Barbie dolls, digging in the dirt with Tonka trucks and spreading crayons and coloring books all over the dining room table filled the void of creativity I so much need in my life.  Together we played what are the more recognizable First Person Shooters on Ye Olde Playstation II and, of course, The Sims. As an aside, I was quite horrible at a James Bond Based FPS – but I digress.

Kids don’t  stay kids forever, sadly.  All too soon they were teenagers and playing Pretend with Mom just wasn’t the thing to do anymore. But lo, fear not! What’s this? Second Life, you say? Tell me more! Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to that world I once dreamed of LambdaMOO With Graphics! NICE graphics! No more 16 pixel people for me, no, sir. It’s no joke when I tell you that I have heard A LOT of people who play Second Life referring to their Avatars as “my Barbie doll” or “my Ken doll”. But, Barbie and Ken never had it so good. There are limitless possibilities in Second Life. There are things in Second Life I never could have imagined and things I wish I’d never seen or known existed. This is the imagination’s playground.  If you want to know how to survive in Second Life, you really need to watch this video, too! Man Vs. Second Life LOL. Oddly enough… my first Second Life character was also a rather powerful female vampire. Go figure!

And here is where my narrative takes a slightly sad turn. There are apparently people out there that believe that just because they don’t *get* a certain something that it must be bad and harmful to the person who does get it and not only that, enjoys getting it. Trying to truly explain to someone what Second Life is goes beyond difficult. I feel a little sorry for those folks. Maybe they’ve lost touch with their Inner Child. Maybe they had really bad childhoods and playing Pretend reminds them of that. Maybe they see those of us who are still able to play with such childlike abandon as inferior, as sad and pathetic. We must be miserable in our lives to want to escape for a few hours into this fantasy world that has no basis in reality.  As if going to the movies, going to a stage play, watching a sit-com or a ‘reality’ television show doesn’t do almost the same thing.  For me, they are the sad ones. They are the ones that can’t take their own imaginations on a journey into an endless world of possibilities. They prefer to sit at a distance, to be spectators instead of participants in their own entertainment. Their minds are too muddled up with grown-up gunk to let themselves play Pretend anymore and let someone else do the work for them.  They would rather sit in front of the Magic Blue Box known as television with no chance of interacting with what’s happening on the screen.

Second Life and places like it have made it possible for this Introvert to come out of her shell. I’ve made wonderful friends through these mediums. One of which I’ve had since 1995! We played together in LambdaMOO and by gum… we still get together once in a while on Second Life! We’ve met in person all of ONCE!  but we’ve shared so much of our lives in these past almost 20 years, our friendship is just as strong and real as if we saw each other face-to-face every day. (At least I think so. I hope he feels the same.)  Through the ups and downs of our lives, we’ve pulled each other through. Isn’t that what being friends is really about?

Yeah, there are a fair amount of idiots out there, too. You hear people say how dangerous it is to meet people online. It’s dangerous to meet strangers in bars, too. It’s dangerous to race cars and jump out of airplanes and climb cliff sides and go white water rafting. It was really dangerous for that group of kids I grew up with who loved to race across the tops of piles of logs and swaying twenty-foot cut timber piles. It was dangerous (and painful) getting hit with a half-rotten apple flung from the end of a stick, too! It’s called living, folks and sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith and pretend you know the outcome.

And sometimes… well, sometimes that Leap Of Faith makes you buy a one-way plane ticket to a place you’ve never been to meet up with a guy you’ve only met once before and it all turns out pretty darn good! So good that we no longer HAVE to play Pretend on Second Life anymore in order to be together, but um…. sometimes we still do, simply because we can. (Not to mention finding pirate ships to sail and shoot cannons from is pretty hard to come by these days.)

He’s Not A French Model But…

Adventures / Childhood fantasies / Family & Relationships / Motorcycles & me

I did meet him on the Internet.

Yup, it’s true. I’m head over heels, madly, truly, deeply in love with a man that, less than a year ago, I’d never met in person. Today, we live together. Maybe that doesn’t seem so dramatic in this day and age, but it’s the back story that’s cool.

We met in a little place called Second Life where anything and everything you can possibly imagine and quite a few things you can’t – or maybe didn’t want to – have been brought to the surface. It can be a very scary place. Everyone looks good in Second Life. We’re all young and slim and rich. We can be pirates in the 1700s one day, Native Americans in the 1800s the next then hop over and be modern day kick-ass bikers once we’re tired of being shot at by outlaws. Not to mention all the vampires and fae that seem to crop up everywhere. It’s crazy and I love it.

A Facebook friend introduced me to SL in the fall of 2010. For that first year I was a vampire on an estate called Legacies 1891. Sadly, Legos, as it is so affectionately known, closed down a while ago. I moved around a lot after that and eventually gave up the whole vampire thing in favor of the American Wild West in a place called Amiville. Had a lot of fun playing the boarding house owner but eventually that didn’t much hold my attention. I moved on to join the Native American population and that, dear friends, is where our Love Story begins.

I was a wandering Indian maiden without a tribe. He was a Cherokee. As I was about to log off for the night, I got a notice that they were having a story hour in the Cherokee village. I almost didn’t go but the Fates had other ideas. By the end of the night, my little Indian girl was madly in love with the handsome brave who had sat across from her at the fire circle. In less than a month, on Feb. 17, 2012 they were married in a traditional Cherokee wedding ceremony.

Four months later, he would drive over 1600 miles from Central TX to Upstate NY to spend a week with me. Like that virtual first night, the sparks flew as we held each other for the first time. Swear to God, I thought he was going to snap me in half. Seven months after that, I would make my first trip to the Southwest since my family had moved away in the Summer of 1966. You see – one of the odd things that we have in common is, we were both White Sands Missile Range Kids. I was born there. He was there during his high school years. Had we lived there at the same time, we would have lived less than a mile apart.

I bought a one-way plane ticket to Austin, TX. Yes, one way. You see, at the end of my ten day visit, we packed up everything we could into the smallest U-Haul that we could and drove back, half way across the country, so we could be together. In less than a week, we’ll be celebrating the one year anniversary of our first face-to-face meeting!

So far, so good. Since January 18th, 2013 we have not spent more than half a day apart. We’re still head over heels, madly, truly, deeply in love and grow more so as time goes by. He’s not a French model (nor a crazy ax murdered) but then, neither am I, but we did meet on the Internet and I’d not change that for the world.

Man vs. Piggy

Adventures / Pets

I bought a pretend guinea pig last night.

I think its name is Skittles or Scuddles or Nibbles or some such thing. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the little critters and with the remaining balance I still had on the gift card I got at the pretend baby shower last year, Nibbles (or Wiggles) was actually free. Took the critter home to the castle and set up the cage. I have to admit to being a little disappointed. The ad seemed to indicate that little Wiggles could be held by my pretend daughter, Willow. At the very least, *I* wanted to be able to hold the little fella using some cute gesture. Nope. Poor thing just sits there, stuck to the side of my hand or motionless on the floor unless he’s in his cage. Then he scampers about and is cute as all get out. As long as Puddles (or Piddles) is happy, as happy as a pretend guinea pig can be, then I’m happy.

The real guinea pig I have isn’t much more affectionate than the pretend one, mind you. Plus I have to feed her and clear her cage. She’s the childhood pet I was never allowed to have as a child. My cousins had guinea pigs but I was never allowed. My dad never liked ‘rats’ as he called them. So, five years ago I decided to treat myself. Nona Bologna (Nona for short) makes noise, too, particularly when she hears you in the kitchen opening the veggie drawer and rustling plastic bags. It’s her subtle way of demanding her morning grape. Once this requirement it met, along with a few pieces of carrot and a handful of timothy hay, she’s quiet. Rare is the moment she deems you worthy of petting her on the head and nose, but when she does – it’s so damn cute. Nona is five-years-old now and sadly, though she still seems very healthy and active, her days are numbered. Her companion, Mina Louise, passed away last year. Nona doesn’t seem to mind being alone though. All the more grapes, carrots and hay for her.

When Nona leaves us Jim wants a dog. I’d prefer a cat. It’s one of those mixed relationships. Kinda like one person being a Republican and the other a Democrat only different and a lot less stressful. I’ll likely not get any more guinea pigs. It was fun and it fulfilled that little kid part of me that always wanted them but I’m ready to be pet-free for a while. I have Jim now instead.

JIm doesn’t squeal when I open the veggie drawer or rustle a bag, but he certainly lets me know when he needs feeding. One of these days I WILL rap his hand with a wooden spoon when he steals from the cutting board while I’m trying to cook. Either that or he’s going to get a finger chopped off. And, I can cuddle and hold him using a cute gesture. I haven’t tried just setting him on the floor to see what happens. I imagine, much like the pretend guinea pig, he’d just lay there motionless for awhile. Unlike Nona. Jim can (and usually does) clean up after himself. That’s a definite plus! Nona doesn’t cook nor does she even make the slightest effort to do the dishes.

Yeah, I think I’ll keep Jim around long after Nona Bologna goes to wherever guinea pigs go when they die. Nona never built me a pretend log cabin as a wedding gift and I’m pretty sure she has no interest in dressing up as a pirate and sinking navy ships or going to karaoke. And I know for a fact, she’ll never sit at my feet on the sofa and sing me to sleep.

In the battle of Man vs. Piggy,  Man wins.

Sorry, Nona.