Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I really did try to make the best of things yesterday as I was forced (twist my arm) to blow a day’s worth of personal leave and hang around the house to let in and generally supervise the service technicians who were scheduled to come to our assistance. Fortunately both pros were scheduled to come in the early afternoon and I had the morning free. I helped my wife to get ready for work and the kids to get ready for daycare. Once they were out the door I ran a shopping errand which otherwise would have had to wait until Thursday and eaten into my wife’s day off, and when I got back home I spent some time cleaning up a bit of the mess in the basement resulting from the leak as well as organizing down there a little more, seeing as how we’ll be having guests this weekend who will want the grand tour. I straightened up the main floor of the house, too, and hung some pictures, and did some laundry, and tried to be more productive than lazy.

And, I admit, I played some video games. There came a point where I felt I needed to be on the main floor of the house so I could answer the door quickly for both respective appointments, and I likewise felt I should be doing something which would be no trouble to unceremoniously walk away from at the chime of the doorbell. I also think that if you’re going to miss a day of work for whatever reason and not squeeze at least a little bit of enjoyment/entertainment out of it to recharge your spiritual batteries and gird yourself for the next stretch of grindstone-nosing days, you are missing a golden opportunity. So shortly before the pros were due, I made myself lunch and sat down at the computer and once again turned my attention to my recently renewed interest in City of Heroes.

I don’t think I mentioned it last time, but when I delved back into the MMO world of Paragon City this summer I started playing a brand new character rather than picking up where I left off with any of my other characters. (I have like six dozen of them, because I am just about obsessed with inventing superheroes.) Given various templates and power sets to choose from, I ended up making a somewhat scruffy, bearded dude with a sword and a shield (I would also have given him a cape but the way the game works you must earn your cape after reaching a certain level). And I dubbed this character … Quixote.

There’s an old joke about the massive multiplayer online roleplaying game model, which points out that the workings of the game world are somewhat at odds with the genres they attempt to emulate. In theory, you play a character in an MMORPG to experience the thrill of heroic adventure in a dangerous, living world. In practice, the world is a computer program and its dangers consist of random subroutines like wandering gangs of goblins (in a fantasy setting) or muggers (in something like City of Heroes). You can direct your character to beat up the bad guys and stop the mugging, and shortly after you knock out your enemies they will fade away, but shortly after that they will respawn so that someone else can have a turn at them. So in this sense (finally, here comes the joke) it is less like heroic adventure and more like social work. (Rim shot.) Granted, all video games are repetitive, no matter how many times Pac-Man eats those ghosts they just float their disembodied eyes back to the middle and then come out resheeted for more. Perhaps it’s simply more striking (to me, at least) in the milieu of archetypal figures ostensibly dedicated to ideals like “making the world a better place” as opposed to “gobbling pellets”.

Despite all my rage I am still just a blob in a maze.
And this of course is how I amuse myself, thinking about the inherent absurdities of things and highlighting them, literalizing the quixotic nature of cyber-superheroing. What I didn’t realize a few weeks ago was just how ironic it would be to be sitting in my house playing a video game in the guise of a superhero named Quixote while waiting for service appointments in what was starting to feel a lot like an uphill, unending and unwinnable battle against entropy itself to keep everything in my house operating at acceptable levels of functionality and comfort. It’s just about enough to get me to start over with another character, a be-toga-ed strongman named Sisyphus, perhaps.

Also, what I wouldn’t have given for a windmill yesterday to fan the house and keep it cool. (Not really how windmills work. I know.)

Also also, when my wife got home from work last night we were talking a bit about the kids and one particular boy at daycare whom our little guy seems to be best buds with, and my wife (accurately) assessed the other boy as sweet but possibly not very bright (as these things go for three-year-olds) and she said he was the Sancho Panza to our little guy’s Don Quixote. She actually portmanteaued our son as Don Juan Quixote to highlight his winning ways with the ladies, while she was at it. But the point is she was tossing around the Cervantes references with utterly no idea that I had been ruminating on them in a completely different context earlier. It’s a little bit frightening how simpatico we are.

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