Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lost Weekend

At right is Bomberman, a character who briefly wrested Primo's imagination from Mario. He's made of ham, roast beef and turkey on wheat with red and yellow carrot accents, a bomb carved from a BabyBel cheese round and a taro root chip for his body. The black at the lower right is licorice. Bomberman's time at the top lasted about as long as this lunch did.
Primo had a four-day weekend last week and got to borrow his cousins' wii. Sunday night for him was probably like being pulled back out of the light and waking up on the operating table. Maybe with the anaesthesia having worn off, though he was more morose than hysterical. Monday morning saw him returning to school and the wii returning to its owners.
In between the former and latter, though, dad took a turn. Alone.
I had been playing multiplayer Mario with him, at his request, in hour-plus blocks all weekend and my personality needed the closure of beating the thing. Something I just wasn't going to be able to do with him playing. So I took 20 minutes Monday morning, beat the last level and watched the closing cinema screens and credits. Then a message popped up: "your progress has been saved."
This particular Mario game is rather sprawling. It's not something you just sit down and play through from beginning to end at a sitting. More like lots of sittings over a four-day weekend. I'm going to say 1,000 hours worth. Anyway, the programmers know this, and they made it so you have the option to save your game after each level- an option we declined on the rare occasion we'd pass a level that the cousins hadn't (or hadn't saved after.) This time, though, there was no option. It just saved. So, I called my brother-in-law to thank him for letting us borrow the game, to let him know I'd be bringing it by, and to apologize for robbing his family of the sense of accomplishment to which they were entitled.
He, of course, didn't think it was any big deal. "We'd been playing all weekend and I just needed to put it to rest," I told him.
"Yeah, so did you and Primo beat it together?"
"Yeah.. no. We tried and tried, but all it did was make me need to get it done, so I did it without him."
I spent the rest of the school day imagining myself catching a home run ball as it falls toward his glove at our first baseball game. Or painting his pinewood racer while he's sleeping.
Later on, I was telling my wife about the embarassment of the autosave, and Primo overheard and asked what I was talking about. I resisted telling him. "What, you don't want to tell him?" my wife asked. "Tell me what?" came the voice from the backseat. Then there was a momentary silence, because that setup should be followed by something like "daddy spent your college fund" or "daddy's going to have to go away for a while." Or both. So admitting then, after a hushed conversation with his mother and a pregnant pause, that I had played Mario without him because he'd been holding me back ... at a child's video game ... made me all the more sheepish for its rediculousness.
When it didn't seem to bother him, I grasped for some recognition. "Pretty cool, huh? Your dad beat the game!" *Did you ever know that I'm your hero? I am the wind beneath your wings.*
A silence so brief as to preclude the possibility of his appreciating my accomplishment ended, as do so many of the fleeting quiet moments in my life, with the words "One time, [my cousin] was teeny-tiny..." And everything was back to normal usual. No feelings of betrayal or inadequacy. No swelling of filial pride. Just more Mario talk. More *** ******, I-can't-tell-what-day-it-is-anymore Mario talk. It's like we're in a POW camp. Or fugitives shackled together. Or on a life raft. I wonder whether I look like a big, spotted mushroom to him yet.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


This was, admittedly, more topical a week or two ago. It's gold medalist Shaun White in pepperoni, cantaloupe, grapes, carrot, cherry tomato and Cheez-It on a hot dog snowboard. There is some provolone cheese behind him for contrast. The rings are zucchini, pepperoni, egg, nori and yellow squash. The finger food beneath is Cheez-Its, goldfish, strawberries and carrots and the snow is egg.
When the Olympics started, Primo remarked to us that it isn't important who wins as long as everyone has fun. China agrees wholeheartedly. Still, if we were to choose an event that would affirm his faith in that philosophy, snowboarding would probably be it. So that's where we started, and he really liked it. Especially the Half Pipe. From there we branched out to other events, including "one where people wear two skinny snowboards and use sharp sticks," but none matched the appeal of snowboarding.