In Real Life
I’ve been around the internet for quite some time. Granted, I wasn’t there at the inception of the ARPANET, but I have had an account of some sort since around 1991 when UNIX ruled and no one had yet seen the wonders Mosaic. What I’m trying to convey if you haven’t quite gotten it is that I’m a huge geek from way back. (Psst, so are my friends.)
There really weren’t a lot of ways to pass your time on the internet since there certainly wasn’t “the web” and MMORPGs (yes, I’m going to make you look it up, this isn’t Free Acronym Definition Day) came more in the form of Telnet connections to MUDs, MUshes and MOOs (don’t put the tech dictionary away just yet). I personally fell for a form of online game called a MUD (Multiple User Dungeon – hey, I’ll give you one for free) where I spent hours playing with my friend Jonathan and many strangers who went by names like Khan, Thrud and Pokey. Much to Anna’s mother great disdain, we brought Anna into our lurid world of internet computer gaming.
Back in those days I also had a starry eyed view of the people I played with. Back then (to distinguish it from how I feel today) I genuinely thought it was a great way to see people for who they were on the inside because you would cut through making those harsh judgments based solely on someone’s looks or idiosyncrasies. I believed in Santa and the Easter Bunny then, too. What can I tell you? With that adorable bit of naiveté I set about meeting some of these newly found kindred spirits and along for most of the ride (sometimes even manning the bus) was Anna.
One of the more memorable meetings was meeting a guy named Pete whose character’s name on the MUsh was something like Ender (for the non-geeks, Ender is a character in the book by Orson Scott Card called Ender’s Game). We decided to meet up in New Orleans. The thinking there and I swear this was the exact thing we said “no one can have a bad time in New Orleans.” I’m here to tell you, they can.
We get to our hotel in Gretna (a note to travelers to New Orleans just stay in the Quarter, if you make it to Gretna once, you’ll never make it there again – the highways don’t really go there and the fact you got there in the first place was a miracle. It’s the Brigadoon of the South and it only appears once every 100 years) and we immediately spot his truck. It’s a teal truck (a color that should be outlawed for cars) with the license plate reading “Ryker 1”. Anna and I just stood there and groaned. Then up walks this midget of a guy – I swear in stacked heels he was all of 5’2″ – a real little feller.
We make small talk that burns some time then we head off to find some restaurant he’s heard about that is supposed to be just fantastic. Two hours later after riding the Garden District trolley and being forced to march up and down a street we find the place. Anna’s medicine had just eaten a hole in her stomach, the midget almost got his wallet stolen and we’re very anxious to simply sit down and eat. Anna and I were dressed “Austin casual” meaning I have on rolled up denim shorts and a hot pink tie dye shirt while Anna is similarly dressed. Let me just say in our town, you can go almost anywhere dressed like that without raising a brow. We find the restaurant after finally getting Pete to agree that it’s ok to ask people on the street even if they do work at other restaurants for directions. As we perused the menu Anna and I immediately realized we were completely in over our head. I think I may have brought $50 for the entire trip and Anna was about in the same boat but had the joys of car trouble to add to making the trip extra fun. The money I had was supposed to cover gas, a couple of day’s worth of food, drinks and souvenirs. See, when you’re really young, you’re REALLY stupid about budgeting.
The restaurant was indeed one of New Orleans’ finest. In fact, it was so fine that a police officer was standing outside the door where we were gaining attention for gawking at the menu. Well, we were really gawking at the prices and having to engage in low mumbled conversations about whether we could afford to split a salad. The officer asked if we were lost or at least he did in my memory because we certainly looked out of place. Pete chimed in with “well, the ladies aren’t sure if they’re dressed appropriately”. For the record, neither was he. The officer was kind and said “well, you’re still early and it will probably be ok.” In we go where EVERYONE from the customers to the bar guy to the wait staff turned around and stared. You could hear a pin drop and I’m sure some eldery ladies screamed right before fainting. Anna and I had the decency to be completely embarrassed while Pete marched in with his head held high. At least high enough so he could be seen above the tables and chairs.
Anna and I were still trying to figure out if they charged for water when Pete grandly announced “Ladies, the meal is on me!” OH HELL YES IT IS – but that was more a few facial twitches that Anna and I shared. Bib boy then proceeded to have some lobster and who knows what else. I can’t even remember my meal thanks to trying to melt underneath the table and avoid stares.
I realize that this doesn’t convey that Pete was a twerp, but trust me when I say he was. In fact, I’m going to let Anna tell you all about that on her side of this Big Blue Mess.
Later that night we ended up at Pat O’Brien’s like good tourists. $50 won’t get you a nice meal at a fancy restaurant, but it will buy you a couple of fine Hurricanes and when you’re dealing with an internet twerp you need a few. At first I started off fine, listening to Pete carry on about life as an overly tall ass whuppin’ midget (pardon the language but “butt kicking” doesn’t capture how over the top this guy was with his great killer instincts and boy did he carry on about how he could kill people). Some back story, Anna knows ASL (c’mon, you’ve got to know that one). She’s studied sign language since she was in Elementary school and received her degree in Deaf Education – she’s beyond finger spelling, which I am not. So, as Pete told us about his prowess as a Napoleon Complex riddled assassin, I spelled out my real thoughts with my fingers in my hair to Anna while nodding politely at Pete. I would subtlety cast my eyes Anna’s way to make sure she understood. Well, turns out the more you drink the more you lose track of the spatial relationship between arms and hair so that I was finally finger spelling my thoughts out to the middle of the table and my slight glances to Anna turned into me turning my head directly at Anna and staring until she had to wave me off.
The evening ended with me staggering out to the middle of Bourbon Street where Anna refused to beat up some woman (who had it coming, I might add!!!) and some accident involving more drunken touriests and an ambulance. I remember Pete loudly commenting something like “I don’t like rubber neckers” when we glanced over to see what was going on. Well that did it, you don’t challenge Anna who then immediately became THE world champion rubber necker by standing up on a lamp post to get a better view. I staggered after the ambulance and we found Pete, humiliated by our antics, but still able to jam out with his air guitar against a building. Rock on, Pete!
The stories go on, but you all need a break so go check out Anna’s latest update.