Passing the Torch

The first two Pankrations didn’t really have a title – it was just a personal tradition. I played video games starting at sunset the Monday before Thanksgiving because a) as a rule I didn’t play games during the school semester and b) no one goes to class that Tuesday. It was only the third year that I started to invite people to play with me. Last year we had close to a hundred people participating on two continents (three, if you count Turkey as two in itself). This year, two of my former pledges took on all the publicity and planning for the event. They made shirts. And it’s good, too, because I forgot to participate.

I’ve realized that I have several boyish habits that I’ll have to get rid of, or at least severely minimize, when I get married in less than a month. When I list them off to people, I often include watching Farscape for hours at a time or buying comic books without forethought, but really there is one habit that dominates this category. Video games. Yes, adults can play them, but after I’m married I know that I can’t fight dragons with an sword and a shield for two hours each night. Maybe not two hours each week. And who would want to? Though it’s possible to get married in some video games, from my understanding its much more rewarding when real.

Kind of a solo thing, anway

I value video games as one path of imagination. I think that playing good games, like watching good movies or reading good books, opens you up to new ideas and new ways to tell a story. But also I realize that sometimes I’d rather be fighting a dragon than a cedar tree with a pole saw. In those instances, it may not be as healthy as, say, sit ups.

Marriage, many websites tell me, is a give and take process. And without being told I know that video games is something I am going to give. Possibly the whole Pankration, though I’ll have to wait until next year to find out. Or until Mass Effect 3 comes out.


The Way to Jupiter

Last night I had a dream that one of my fraternity brothers called me without warning and told me he was going to Jupiter. He and I had coffee and I congratulated him on his  selection to the team and he told me that I knew someone else who was going to Jupiter – my fiance Holly.

(Of course, we cannot travel to Jupiter because it is a gas giant and there is no solid planet to land on. This was one of the three slam dunk answers I provided my trivia team in a sixty question run at Mellow Mushroom last week.)

It's not actually there - an illusion.

When confronted, she confessed that she had always wished to travel to the stars and I was happy for her. However, I had my suspicions about the program because no one knew about it. NASA was running a secret Jupiter exploration program. It was not on television, and Holly was not being paid for the year long journey.

As she boarded the flight to Jupiter, I did a little investigating and discovered that NASA never planned for the flight to make it to Jupiter. Instead, the shuttle was going to settle into an orbit around the Earth while the crew was tricked into believing they were sailing the big black ocean in the sky. There were little TVs propped into the portholes, projecting a picture of Jupiter, as if they had already arrived.

I approached Holly with this information and begged her not to go. She relented and decided to stay with me on Earth, while her crew, including my fraternity brother, blasted off. For some reason, I didn’t tell anyone else that they weren’t really going to Jupiter.

The reason I’ve told this story to three of my friends on separate occasions already is because I’m fairly impressed that I could put together such a twisting plot that managed to actually stay on task. And that Holly was interested in sailing to Jupiter. I should’ve known it was a dream when I found that out.

Advanced Maintenance: D-

The maintenance worker day officially starts at 7 a.m., but since its grown cold that’s just the time we start our trucks. While we wait for them to warm, we’ll talk about almost hitting that crazy ten point when we drive past War Eagle Mill or read the classifieds in the two month old Popular Mechanics that sits on our breakroom table. The classifieds are the only part I’ve only read once.

We also talk some about the coming day. For instance: we’ve been focusing on winterization the past week and a half. While the older guys reset valve systems and take apart the bathhouse plumbing, I’m entrusted with complex tasks like retrieve all cleaning supplies or cover the grills with a tarp. That’s less me complaining (until last week I thought antifreeze could burn through clothing – I couldn’t winterize pipes if I was the Tin Man and faced hypothermia) and more of a comment on my limited skill set.

Yesterday whilst my fellow maintenance workers were giving me advice on how to best handle Windex (wear rubber gloves), one remarked, “And make sure you don’t put the pump sprayers in the boiler room in the chow hall.” That caught me off guard, and another followed it up by saying, “Oh yeah. In fact, move all the pump sprayers out of the boiler room. What kind of idiot decided to store them there?”

Why would a person who chose to store pump sprayers there be termed an idiot, I asked.

“The heat will eat through the seals if there’s any pressure in the bottles,” Rob, my boss, said. “It was probably one of the counselors this summer who did it.” We all groaned – we like to make fun of how incompetent the counselors are with maintenance, even though I was one of them for many years, up until three months ago. “It was a dumb thing, though.”

We all remarked on how dumb it was to put the sprayers in the boiler room. Such ignorance, I cried! Here, here!

I put them there. At the end of camp all the counselors spend a day helping take the water trampolines out or lug the gymnastics mats to storage. I was told to consolidate and store the pump sprayers. As I searched for their proper place, I settled on the boiler room because it was warm and because the sprayers looked like dinosaur eggs. If I wanted them to hatch, they needed to be in a moist, hot place. Trust me – I’ve watched the director’s commentary on Jurassic Park.

The maintenance crew likes to poke fun at me, and I would/do too. I mean, they had to explain the difference between a pipe wrench and a socket wrench (I’d just walk around saying ‘pipe wrench’ because I like adjectives and I thought it made me sound more hands on). Once our carpenter stopped his truck and got out to put wire in my weedeater because he instinctively knew I was just hitting the grass with a spinning head. But this is one thing they’ll never know.

5th Annual Pankration

I divide my readership in half – former fraternity brothers and my mom. But there’s a small unaccounted percent that get redirected here when they Google information for a Fulbright ETA grant. This is for you.

Besides being a handsome maintenance worker, I also have a history inventing things, including Imagifighting, the sport of Phishball, and the line of Legos entitled, “Dragons vs. Robots.” My corporate petitions have gone unanswered. But additionally, I invented a holiday my sophomore year of college called the Pankration. Pronounced Pan-krat-i-on, it’s a sun-down to sun-up video game marathon starting the Monday before Thanksgiving. I originally created it because no one goes to class the next day and I wanted to play Mass Effect, which came out at midnight that first Pankration eve. Now, the holiday is in its fifth year, and while its still not recognized by the national government, we’re printing shirts for the second time.

(I should also mention that I invent Laffy Taffy jokes. For instance:

How do insects surf the internet?

A spider web.

You walked right into that one.)

Last year marked the first time the holiday went international – I played Final Fantasy VII on my 2006 MacBook Pro for twelve hours in Turkey. I was joined by a few other fellow Fulbrighters scattered across eastern Turkey who had similar interests.

This year I’ll be moving away from Final Fantasy games (I’ve played them the last three Pankrations) and play Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, which comes out November 11th, a marketing scheme I’m sure was designed to make the game eligible for my holiday. If you’d like to participate, we’ll start at sundown on November 21st. You can buy shirts here.