I never really played games with personal computers. There was a period, maybe mid-1990s, when the only interesting free software out there on what I perceived to be an internet (it was just a series of bulletin board servers, really) were games that programmers had developed. For fun. It was a different world.
So I played some of those, including a Tetris version that I remember, and some sort of two-dimensional platform game that feels kind of sentimental now. We bought my six-year-old daughter a Gameboy one Christmas, and that led me toward Nintendo; I bought the original system and actually liked to play the Mario game. I aged out pretty quickly, with kids and all. They tend to suck up all the game-playing opportunities, and I had issues with wasting time.
I still have those issues, although it’s kind of moot at the moment.
So there’s nothing gamer-ish about me, not even a random game of solitaire. There’s too much out there to be bored, except anyone can be bored. And when I’m not in the mood for the million ways to be distracted online (the first million ways), I end up taking geography quizzes.
I don’t know when it started, or exactly why (or if I’ve spent a lot of time writing about it, actually; sorry). I think I realized one day that I really didn’t know the geography of South America very well. I could pick out Brazil and Chile, sure. Ecuador is pretty easy if you know where the equator is. The whole thing isn’t hard, 20-odd countries spread out from Argentina up to Canada. I nailed the Americas pretty quickly.
I then moved to Europe, playing a really hard game that removed the shapes of the countries as soon as they were correctly identified (and the game ended when you missed one). It’s hard to pick out Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, if you’re missing Croatia and Montenegro, and trust me—you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
But Europe is fun. There’s a lot of history to think about, and then there are those tiny places like Monaco and Andorra and San Marino—San Marino! Oldest continuous sovereign state in the world, since 301 A.D., looking to be a suburb in northeastern Italy.
And then on to Asia, with all of the ‘stans and the archipelagos and crazy shapes, and now Africa, which I’m still a little shaky on but almost there.
Again, I don’t know why, except I like sets (and these are sets) and because of the visual way I tend to think. Geography seems to be easier with that sort of approach, although it’s less of a color thing than the way shapes interlock in historical fashion (Cold War geopolitics come into play a lot in Europe, for example, so it’s easy to connect Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria in one direction; Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary in the same way, one step over; and then see the Balkans divide and subdivide and really, it’s a map of history, Europe.
It’s all history, really, which is a lot of it, anyway. And it’s a puzzle, and it’s entertaining. Educational, I suppose; if you asked me to name the 190-plus countries in the world, I’m pretty sure I could get to at least 160 without much effort. I have no idea what good this possibly could do for me. It feels OK, though. It’d be nice if I could learn a few languages with the same system.
I think I’ve been singing in the church choir for three years. Seems like I saw a Facebook post about that a few days ago, from way back when. I think I started in 2015, when I had more time. This is my fourth time through, then.
I was never a choir singer. A bit in junior high, and then of course in group numbers in musicals, but that’s really the point—I don’t seem to be all that interested in working in groups. I sang for two summers in a row, fairly complicated harmony (including a capella four-part singing), but that was just rehearsal and three months of doing it every night.
I don’t seem to have the gene for sight-singing, although I’m better. Should be fairly simple, you’d think; if the notes go up, sing higher, and then reverse. Watch for accidentals and naturals.
And maybe it would have been different if I hadn’t been alone, the one deep voice in the whole group. We’ve now got a pretty full choir for this little church, 12 or so of us, and I’m still the only baritone (bass-baritone, really). My son has started singing with us, too, for the past few weeks, as he has a very nice voice and a good ear, but it turned out he sings more comfortably with the tenor part.
So I’ve got three tenors to my right, and a hard-of-hearing alto who sits next to me on my left and sings what she sings; she’s a busy woman and I think feels that she just wants to participate, and it warms my heart to have her next to me.
But I’m rarely hearing someone else sing my part, and I guess that’s how you learn to sing in choirs. So I’m not that much better. I don’t really know where I fit in the musical world. I’m OK, comfortable. I can read music, I can play a few instruments a little, I understand some theory.
I just married a woman who sees music the way I see geography, I guess, or calendars. It all makes perfect sense; it’s just math, she’s always told me, but it’s magical math to me, something to do with matrices as far as I can tell. My daughter has it, too. For all I know, my son is musically gifted, obscured by his autism.
I dunno. Maybe I could teach myself to sight-sing better. There are apps. It might be like Slovenia and Italy.
Finally, for anyone who wanders by, I’m obviously now cycling in a weird way. Just felt like writing that down, although, again, I don’t see this as resembling a bipolar situation. I don’t have manic phases as far as I can see, and the cycling is mostly involuntary behaviors (if that makes sense). I lose my appetite, it sneaks back, I lose it again. I only sleep 4-5 hours a night for a few nights in a row, then I get back on track, then back to waking at 4am. My exercise gets good, then dies off. I lose weight more days than I gain it, but little losses and little gains. Still going down. Slowly, but down. Something’s happening.
So, for the record, things aren’t great. I can’t find joy. I have days when I can’t do much of anything, although I try. I fill out applications and adjust resumes. I try to write this novel thing I promised I’d give a try. I go with my wife to whatever event she asks me to attend, play, opera, recital, honky-tonk bar music, whatever. I go out to eat with her when I can, as much as I grind my teeth at the unnecessary expense. The woman works very hard, and Taco Tuesdays are fun.
And fun is what I need right now, I guess. Gotta figure out where Mali is one of these days, and nail it down. It’s right where it’s always been, I think, at least for a while, and unfortunately I think maybe I am too.