whew… is it Friday yet? I swear these weeks are getting longer. This is not a good sign for mid January. I’m no Puxatawney Phil, but according to my calculations Spring is still something like 3 months away. At this rate I may not make it.
The last few mornings I have struggled to stay awake on the way to work. Coffee alone hasn’t been working, so I’ve had to resort to slapping myself in the face. I wish I were kidding, but I really have had to give myself a few hard slaps in the face to keep my eyes open. I may need to consider smelling salts before I end up knocking some teeth out.
Have you ever actually tried using smelling salts? I just thought about it the other day when I saw players on the bench during an NHL hockey game, sniffing them to wake up. It struck me as funny to see something so medieval as smelling salts being used by professional athletes. I tried smelling salts once as a kid, and found that as horrible as they smelled, I couldn’t stop smelling them. I was a strange child. I also used to stare at the sun after I was told not to. In fact, I couldn’t stop staring at it. I’d look up, see spots, look away, and then look back. This would continue until I got a headache and had to go inside and lie down.
Thankfully, I grew out of that phase and replaced staring at the sun with other sorts of self destructive behavior, like beer and girls. These were much more socially acceptable than sniffing smelling salts, if only a tad less painful.
When you grow up in a Northern climate, you have to manufacture your own entertainment to get through the long winter nights. Before beer and girls, but after staring at the sun, my friends and I would while away the winter evenings by playing Dungeons and Dragons.
Yes, we were that geeky.
It was the early 80’s, and we were still in that awkward period between childhood and our wild teenage years. We were old enough to stay up late on the weekend, but still young enough to not really know what to do with our freedom. So like most preteen boys, we got together at each other’s houses on Friday and Saturday nights, with our graph paper, and our multisided dice, and lived out our fantasies as heroic figures out of a Tolkien novel. We’d alternate taking turns as the “Dungeon Master” and spend the week planning out our adventures for the coming weekend. Then we’d convene around someones kitchen table on Friday night, and break out the Warriors, Wizards, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings we’d created, and test ourselves against a plethora of mythological creatures, dealing out critical hits in search of action points.
Yes kids, in the days before the interwebz your parents really did use #2 pencils and graph paper to create virtual worlds to indulge their imaginations. And yes, it was as geeky as it sounds.
I’m not sure where the concept of Dungeons and Dragons began, I only know that by 1984 every tweenage boy in Batavia seemed to be dabbling in it. On those long, interminable winter nights, when we longed for the escape fo spring, it was about all we ever did. Gather together, and dream of foreign lands, and daring exploits. For three years it was our sole source of entertainment, until that fateful evening that Bella introduced me to beer. After that, it was all over, and I never looked back.
In retrospect, it truly is amazing the mystical, and magical sway that a pretty girl and a six pack of warm Old Milwaukee beer can have on a teenage boy. Suddenly, all his boyish games seem flat and dull. His imaginary world of wizards and damsels in distress is replaced overnight with real adventures in the woods behind the Blind School, involving real maidens and potent elixirs. No longer does he dream about heroic exploits on a field of battle. Suddenly, he spends every waking moment campaigning to conquer the beast of self doubt, and win the girl of his dreams.
Amazingly enough, I found myself more adept at this new world of girls and beer, than I ever was in the world of make believe dragons. So much so, that when I did finally leave High School behind and leave for college, I felt as if my life were ending. Those long cold lonely nights in the North Country, offered neither D&D, nor coeds. Just cold beer, and colder dorm rooms. Those four long years in that frozen wilderness proved to be a much more difficult adventure than any I had dreamed up with graph paper, and twelve sided die. Loneliness, alcohol, and frozen tundra is not a good combination. Just look what it has done to Russia. It’s amazing I lived to tell the tale.
But I did survive, and so I know I will survive this winter too. Even without my Dungeon Masters guide, or a six pack of Old Milwaukee to distract me. Spring will come. It always does. No matter how dark the night, or how cold the morning.
Hang in there prospectors we will get through.