A Game of Life or Death

Lately I’ve been Puzzle Quest-ing for my health, jumping on the treadmill whenever I want to game.  Possessing one of those mediocre minds that becomes bored quite easily, in order to exercise efficiently for any length of time requires a distraction, some outlet for my mind as my body goes about the business of toning itself.  Movies or the morning’s SportsCenter typically satisfies most folks, but in this case predictable plots haunt most of the cable HBOs.  And sports just bore me, thus reminding me of my legs, the sweat, and that gnawing pain in my lungs.

The difficulty in this activity of course is finding the right game, as all do not apply themselves well to the constant motion and noise associated with cardio-exercise.  Castlevania: Symphony of the Night worked quite well as did other 2-D platformers.  Story-based RPGs found me jumping off the treadmill in order to listen to dialogue.  Initiating the intricate commands of Street Fighter or fast-paced headshots of Call of Duty while your body (literally) is in motion left me crippled, dying from zombie bites or roundhouse fireball to the face.  Duct-taping the Rock Band drums to the adjacent bookcase, I nearly stabbed myself with the sticks.

PuzzleQuest requires little in the way of ‘game learning:’ no intricate controls, combos, or plot-driven cyphers to memorize.  Players match jewels, skulls, and coins and use the collected matches to hurl spells at zombies, ogres, and minotaurs.  The thrill in itself is simple: the cascading gems chime out bonus points, extra turns, and created weaponry.  Control in hand, I could run for hours and never notice what had so completely distracted my lower half, while my thumb successfully cast bolt lightning and saved the world.

My motivations for exercise requires some explanation.  Outside the obvious drive to remain healthy and mobile, reducing the fate of one day donning pants fashioned from sizable circus tents, I fear an abscess of sloth might reduce or stymie my desire to write effectively.  That’s one excuse at any rate.  The primary drive is purely competitive in nature: as Dasad strives everyday to run, leap, and even doggie-paddle during his free time, training for various club sports and other sweat-inducing activities, I dare not let that bum get too fit, too fast.  He might actually acquire the energy and quickness to beat me in Tekken, and that I can never allow.

Lately my friend has joined that special clique of Americans that run marathons and jogs in the wee hours of the day in tight shorts.  You might notice him or one of his brethren racing along the shoulder at three in the morning or seven o’clock at night, florescent tags stapled to their Speedos, faces flush with sweat and exhaustion.  I often wonder what runners consider while retracing their respective trails every morning.  Don’t they get bored after a while?  I’d be sorely tempted after fifteen minutes to find myself something new, pausing on a park bench to consider the scenery, the stars, or the scents wafting from the corner Starbucks.  Indeed I cannot criticize their focus, but certainly my ADD would not be able to suffer the repetitious movements, the struggle against muscle and fat, the absence of meaningful words scattered among the neighborhood woodlands.

For what purpose, I ask you?  Why do we pay the monthly fees for gyms, the twenty-first century equivalent of a torture chamber?  Health of course is the obvious answer, forever linked with suffering and physical pain.  The digital realm and the computer, a god in its own right, demands the daily sacrifice of time, energy, and those size 36 pants you’ve kept since college.  Unlike our ancestors, we work not to survive.  The dinosaurs are extinct; Nature’s predators are stored away in zoo or protected by countless government edicts; even Maryland deer bounce off the sides of our Excursion as we cruise up the road to the grocer’s for milk.  The Wild is conquered.  We run not to survive another day, but to avoid fusing with our sofas.

Thus, with the snow building outside and my mind now fully awake, my body creaks and groans, demanding exercise.  I shall grab my shoes and hop on the treadmill, controller in hand.  Until they begin cloning dinosaurs, this is the best I can do.

Just a few thoughts

Lately I have been feeling under the weather. Not physically sick, but just irritable, tired, and impatient. For those who know me, this shift in mood contrasts greatly with my normally optimistic (translation: annoying) self. Usually when I get this way, my body is telling me that I need to work out a bit. Nothing extreme, just an hour to an hour and a half of running or lifting will suffice to revive my spirits from their more somber depressing funk.

Yet my body’s method of communication intrigued me. In religion class, they taught us that suffering is a reaction to evil; in psychology, they taught us that anxiety is a reaction to stress; in gym they taught us that pain is a reaction to physical harm – which usually concluded my reaction to gymnastics. Thus, I discovered my body’s signals for languor: depression. And the immediate remedy for its cessation: exercise.

Or if funds allow, a visit to the bookstore . . . Or if time and money allows, a road trip to an unknown place.

For those of you, who have never ever ventured out to a Renaissance festival, I have three words for you: boostiers and bread bowls . . . Ok, that may have been four words, but if you happen to be scraping chicken and rice out of a bread bowl while young a lady trots by in a short period dress and a boostier, you too might discard some first-grade math to chisel that image in your mind’s temple. Albrecht Dürer clearly missed out on the medieval centerfold market; St. Jerome just does not possess the hips.

Seriously though, forgoing the tantalizing costumes, Renaissance festivals excite me each year. The fair grounds are set among the trees, the food tastes delicious, and the shows are always filled with bawdy quasi-British humor. With hot apple cider in hand, we can sit beneath several large oaks and watch short Shakespeare plays or shop for goblets and immense six-foot long swords. Although, personally I pass on the period weaponry; after twenty-five years on the job as big brother to seven siblings, I need not buy fuel for a possible funeral pyre. My voice creaks and groans from years of screaming lengthy portents:

“Sean! Do not play with the sheet-metal! You’ll cut off a finger!”

“Kevin! Stop playing with the bug-zapper! You’ll fry your tongue off!”

“Alright just so we’re clear: no one is ever EVER to attempt anything Macaulay Culkin does in this movie, ok? If you do and manage to survive unscathed, afterwards I will kill you. So Ryan, please return Mom’s good ornaments to the box. Thank you.”

Originally my parents attempted to completely secure the house: bubble-wrapping all the table corners, buying only dull knives, corking the electric sockets with plastic plugs, and vacuuming daily so no dead bee or wasp become the next appetizer to a crawling infant (that reminds of the old line in To Have and Have Not:

Eddie: Say, was you ever bit by a dead bee?
Beauclerc: I have no memory of ever being bit by any kind of bee.
Slim: (interjecting) Were you?
Eddie: You’re alright, lady. You and Harry’s the only one that ever…
Morgan: Don’t forget Frenchie.
Eddie: That’s right. You and Harry and Frenchie. You know, you got to be careful of dead bees if you’re goin’ around barefooted, ’cause if you step on them they can sting you just as bad as if they was alive, especially if they was kind of mad when they got killed. I bet I been bit a hundred times that way.
Slim: You have? Why don’t you bite them back?
Eddie: That’s what Harry always says. But I ain’t got no stinger.

Yet somehow, the kids always seem to avoid the protective coating usually by stepping outside now and then. Though convinced that complete security is impossible – particularly in Nature – I avoid placing long sharp pointy-daggers within reach of small children and Kill Bill-enthused teenagers. The way I see it, if protecting my family from prowlers requires the implementation of a medieval sword, if an army of undead ninja prowlers lie in wait outside my door, forcing me don my authentic Grendel-skin, Son of Cain cape, and to unsheathe my authentic Beowulf dragon-hide sword, then I am probably doomed anyway. Luckily enough that will not happen. From my experience, the undead masses just are not that organized.