0ld m4/\/z w4|2 is teh r0><><0r, d00dz!!!! I 4m 1337!!

Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just trying to hang with the kids and, you know, speak teh language.

(For those of you completely out in the dark, the number “1337” — which is the Amazon ranking in the picture above — is an analogue for “leet,” which is short for “elite,” in “leetspeek,” a kind of replacement code that gamers and others use for actual letters. It stopped being cool, oh, roughly the same time I started writing this entry. The first line of this entry, then, reads: “Old Man’s War is the rock! I am leet!”

Please bear in mind that I am, in fact, not making any real representation of Old Man’s War being the rock, or of me being, in fact, leet. The sentence in question is merely to be appreciate for the ironic value of a 35-year old man using the slang of 15 year olds. Please, go about your life.)


I Never

(Warning/Enticement: Unseemly yet anti-climatically non-revealing sexual content follows)

A correspondent notes:

Your riff on 10 Things I’ve Done You Probably Haven’t reminds me of a little parlor game we used to play that was almost the inverse: The “I’ve Never…” Game in which each person at the table, in the car, around the campfire, lounging around the dorm room tries to come up with something he/she has never done that everyone else in the group HAS done. Obviously not as satisfying for Web play as it requires a fairly limited group. (I used to win with the fact that, somehow, strangely, I’ve never read “Romeo and Juliet.” I have no idea how that happened, as I took boatloads of lit courses and even a couple of Shakespeare courses in college, but… well, I won’t go on.

Leaving aside the possible inverse relationship between “I Never” and “Things You’ve Probably Never Done,” I think my correspondent grossly mischaracterizes the goals of “I Never,” or at the very least is recounting an appallingly bland midwestern version of the game, a version you might play, if, say, you went to Wheaton College or otherwise hung out with folks well-marinated in a Promise Keeper-y sort of lifestyle (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But allow me to suggest that if you’ve won “I Never” by declaring that you’ve never seen Romeo & Juliet, you’re playing it so very wrong.

Here’s how you really play “I Never”:

1. Everyone grabs a drinkable.
2. You sit in a circle.
3. Someone says “I’ve never [enter thing you’ve allegedly never done here]”
4. Anyone who has done that thing — including the person who said “I’ve never [thing they’ve allegedly never done],” since you don’t have to tell the truth — has to drink.
5. If you have done that thing, and someone playing the game knows you have, and yet you don’t drink (say, out of a belated desire not to have your drunken friends know your licentious past), they can call you on it. In which case you have to drink twice.
6. Play until boredom/horniness/alcohol poisoning sets in.

Well, you say, what’s the goal? Well, clearly, there are two:

1. To humiliate friends playing the game along with you by saying “I’ve never…” followed by some ill-advised sexual activity they have participated in (oh, don’t worry, they’ll do the same for you).

2. To get everyone sexually titillated enough that someone — hopefully you — is gonna get some by the end of the night.

And does it work? Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but the first time I played “I Never” I ended up fooling around with one of my high school teachers (don’t worry, it was legal, by about 12 hours), and the last time I played it, someone (not me) got outed via the phrase “I’ve never had anal sex in a churchyard at midnight.” So, yeah, it works.

Mind you, you have to ramp up. You can’t open with midnight anal sex in a churchyard, because, really, where do you go from there? (Don’t answer that.) Generally, the first couple go-arounds are things like “I’ve never kissed a girl,” or “I’ve never gone skydiving,” or, possibly, “I’ve never read Romeo & Juliet.” By the third go-round nipple play “I Nevers” come out. Fifth go-round: Oral sex and bizarre masturbation — “I have never penetrated a melon for the purposes of sexual gratification” is one I recall, and yes, someone had to drink (again, not me). After that, clearly, all bets are off, and you better hope whoever’s playing “I never” with you that night doesn’t know all the dirty, dirty things you’ve done, you sick little freak.

Yeah, I don’t play “I Never” anymore. I don’t drink alcohol, so that gives me an unfair advantage, both in targeting and (an important factor) in remembering. Also, sometime between college and now I came to the conclusion that of all the things I really needed to do, advertising the moist and squishy details of my sexual adventures to a bunch of vindictively drunken so-called friends was not one of them. And let’s not forget that, being happily married as I am, I am reasonably assured of amorous activity without having to humiliate myself publicly to get it. So in all, the game has lost much of its early appeal.

Which is not to say that it couldn’t be interesting these days. For one thing… well, never mind that. For another, I now know lots of science fiction writers and fans who I believe by law are required to be cheerfully and unapologetically sexually, uh, variegated. The problem with playing “I Never” with these folks, to the extent that you want to call it a “problem,” is that everybody would be drinking all the time, and then if they were already enthusiastically libertine (as is not unlikely) they were probably scheduled to get some anyway, and possibly while wearing a vinyl corset and/or furry costume. One does strain to imagine the specificity one would drill down toward to make one and only one particular person drink in a group like this: Midnight anal sex in a churchyard simply isn’t going to cut it. More like: “I’ve never had midnight anal sex in a churchyard dressed as as a transsexual elven princess while my partner, garbed as a Pokémon, recited passages from the Bhagavad Gita in Klingon.”

Here’s the kicker: You know what the other people in the “I Never” game would be offended by? That’s right: The Pokémon costume. And, of course, rightly so.

No, I’ve never done that. The Pokémon costume was already rented out.


Hunter S. Thompson

Like every other guy who wrote for a college newspaper in the last 30 years, there was a time I wanted to be the next Hunter S. Thompson, until I realized (as we all inevitably do) that being the next Hunter S. Thompson wasn’t merely a writing aspiration, but a lifestyle choice for which most of us simply didn’t have the pharmaceutical tolerance, even if we had the inclination (which — thankfully, in retrospect — I did not). So eventually I gave it up and concentrated on being the first me, which, besides being a far less crowded field, aspirationally speaking, also turned out to be the better writing choice.

Now Thompson’s dead; he shot himself in the head. At the moment I can’t decide whether this is shocking or, given his public persona, somehow appropriate. I will note he is the second writer I’ve admired to suicide in the last year or so, the other being Spaulding Gray, who took the plunge off the Staten Island ferry in a death that was also shocking yet somehow appropriate. I don’t claim that there’s any theme to this; lots of now-dead writers whom I admire didn’t suicide. One simply notices when they do. One also notices that the two were similar in a certain way — they told confessional tales of themselves doing things: Thompson in drugged-out, balls-out fashion, Gray in his more buttoned-up New England asides. Both were storytellers, which is a facet of writing I admire and which I don’t think gets enough attention these days. And I suppose you could say they both wrote their own ending of their own stories rather than waiting for life to do it for them.

I didn’t become the next Hunter S. Thompson, which I think we’re all grateful for, but did I learn anything from him? I did indeed. I learned a little hyperbole is a wonderful thing, although too much is, well, hyperbolic — timing matters in its use. I think it’s easy to enjoy his more whacked-out passages and miss how surgically he used them when he was on his form, which is why there are so many bad Thompson pastiches out there (even on the Web. Especially on the Web). I think it’s easy to miss his lesson as a journalist, which was that a good story isn’t always the one you’re supposed to be covering. He also reconfirmed to me something I’ve been taught over and over by my favorite writers: that you can get away with a lot as long as you tell a good story.

Those are all useful lessons, and I thank Thompson for them.

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