Philadelphia – The Return

This entire flight process was a mess from start to finish.  When I arrived at Charlotte Douglas International and went inside, there was a very long line from the check in desk to halfway down the terminal.  Fortunately, despite the fact that there was a long line and only two people processing the passengers we were able to get through with relative speed.  I reluctantly handed over my bag of clothes and rushed off the the security checkpoint.  That’s when the shit began. Had to take off my vest, belt and shoes which I anticipated from previous experience.  Then I had to take out everything from my laptop bag and separate it into individual bins which was annoying. I get into the X-ray scanner and immediately remember that my iPod is in my left pocket so I have to go back and take it out and put it in a bin of its own.  I was so embarrassed and anxious at this point I wanted to cry.  I went back in the X-ray, passed inspection and hurriedly rushed to collect my things, nearly dropping my shorts and showing my off my ass in the process because my belt was off. After gathering my bag and shoving everything back in, I grabbed my bag and and tried to put my belt back on missing a couple loops above my butt.  I finally, FINALLY, get to my gate – A8 – and am greeted by the fact there are no seats open and a fellow passenger tells me there’s a delay of an hour because of weather in Philadelphia. Matty tells me there IS no bad weather in Philadelphia so we’re all left wondering what the fuck?  Turns out we leave on time after all which makes me wonder why the “delay” but I don’t care at this point.  At this point I’m ready to scream.  While I’m loitering around the gate I do notice a shorter than me bearish guy giving me ‘the look’ but as soon as I catch him looking at me he looks away.  Twice.  Maybe I still got it, ha ha, but who am I kidding?  Being the only leather clad, rainbow sporting person on this flight I’m pretty sure it’s glaringly obvious what I’m going to Philly for so I find it a bit silly that people ask me what I’m going there for.

This is a photo of my “admirer” I snapped after we got to Philly.  

First flight in 6 years.  It still fascinates and terrifies me to sit in a plane and watch and feel it take off.  It’s amazes me that we, as a species, have achieved this marvel. Passing through the clouds (and quite a bit of turbulence) it feels like you can almost reach right out and touch them.  Flying through them is fascinating as I have been an earthbound creature the majority of my life.  Watching the earth fall away beneath me and seeing roads become small trails and cars like ants, trees become an endless sea of green twigs and houses and buildings become small squares on the ground.  It was an amazing shared experience with the rest of the passengers as we collectively watched this all unfold together.

But next time I need to remember to bring Dramamine :-/

This was where we started in Charlotte.  Taxing along the runways until we were in position to take off.

This was shortly after leaving the ground in North Carolina.  Not that the phone takes the best quality photos, but these clouds were pretty amazing.

This was the view for a while.  Everything looks so small from up above.

It’s a hazy flight for sure.

Quite a bit of the flight was like this.  Nothing to see except the plane wing and one of the airline’s many animal mascots.

The entire flight I wasn’t really worried about anything other than ‘I hope my checked bag is on the freakin plane’.  Oh, and whether or not we were going to crash because there was a LOT of turbulence.

NOT enjoying this part of the flight!

After a long, scary and miserable time in the clouds, we finally break free of the soupy canopy and I can see the ground again…and Philadelphia!  My initial reaction wasn’t what I had imagined it would be.  I had felt that, upon laying eyes on the city I might burst into tears in front of the other passengers.  But instead, I felt a sense of calm wash over me as though a long time wandering lost in the dark had suddenly and abruptly ended.  I was back.

As we coasted down the runway, I landed to the tune of Total Eclipse of the Heart [Mobius Loop Mix] and began to be filled with intense anxiety at the thought of meeting Matty’s family and friends and the unnameable dread at the minuscule possibility of running into any of Jeff’s old friends while I was here.

I decided that whatever was about to happen, was going to happen and that it was out of my control an to just ride the waves of the storm as they came.  Once we had landed and made our way to the gate, I sat rather impatiently and watched as the other passengers exited the plane.  I was on the next to last row so I had a rather lengthy wait.  We were told to find our baggage at carousel 6 and I had nightmares of the last time this happened – not knowing I was to pick up my checked bag in the breezeway outside the plane and walking on my merry way to find Jeff, only to be told I was supposed to pick it up as we left.  I raced through the airport, stumbling at the end of each of the moving walkways, toward baggage claim.  Once there, I anxiously waited for my duffel bag to appear and lo and behold it rounded the bend just as I approached.  I grabbed the bag and dashed out on to the busy, loud street.  The pulse of the city was alive and well and it coursed through me, filling me with the energy that I’ve never felt anywhere else but at the same time, I was tired from the journey here and was definitely ready for some solitude and quiet time.

OH GOD I WANT OUT OF HERE!!!

I texted Matty and waited for what felt like an eternity though it was only a few minutes.  As I watched car after car pass by, several with Lyft logos in the windshields, I saw nearly every car get rear ended as they all drove impatiently through the pick up area.  Finally, a friendly face appeared in the sea of strangers as Matty and his friend Craig pulled up to whisk me away.  Craig shook my hand and took my bag as I awkwardly handed it off to him and then he jumped in the back seat.  Finally, the man I came to see was here before me at last.  As we left the airport, it felt wrong somehow that I wasn’t heading to center city, to Jeff’s house, but instead heading out into the Philly burbs to Matty’s place.  It reminded me of some of North Carolina: run down houses and old businesses, left to crumble under the weight of years and the onslaught of nature’s wrath.  We chatted for a bit on the way and thankfully Craig didn’t say anything about my southern accent.  We dropped Craig off at his house and continued on our way home, but first he gave me a kiss.  I felt warm and tingly at the brief touch, but satisfied all the same.  The rising anxiety at meeting his mom came in waves, but I held it together as we stopped at a store so I could pick a few essentials that I didn’t feel like fighting to carry on a plane (read: adult butt wipes and lens wipes).  Afterward we continued on to home.

We pulled in the driveway as his sister was pulling out to leave.  His mom was standing on the porch.  His sister pulled back in to say hello and Matty sighed deeply in irritation.  I was about to meet the woman who, a year ago, ‘wanted my muffins’ and I was both tickled and nervous.  We chatted briefly about my flight and I recounted the boredom and turbulence then finally went in the house.  Matty’s mom was both what I expected and not what I expected at the same time.  The wear and tear of her life was clearly visible on her face, but she was as welcoming and sweet as I imagined her to be.  We talked, again, about my flight and I gave her a hug then we finally retreated to the upstairs to the sanctuary of Matty’s bedroom so I can put my bags down, finally.  This was when I accomplished the first task I set out to do while I was here and that was to return the pair of his underwear to him that he (somehow) left at my house last year.  The house is two story and very well kept to the point that I’d never have known that it had been burned down without them telling me the tragic story.  I’m in love with the hardwood floor, the upstairs bathroom with its tiled floor and shower, but not so much the stairs.  Every time I cross the hall to go from Matty’s bedroom to his game room (and vice versa) I have terrifying visions of falling down the steps and breaking something like my leg or the front door.  Speaking of Matty’s game room, walking in here was akin to this:

Seeing his collection that we’ve talked about, and that I’ve seen random glimpses of in photos, in person is awe inspiring.  I’m amazed at the love and dedication spent amassing such a collection.  I can only say wow at what I have seen and can only think that collecting all this is true dedication personified.  I can only hope to one day have such a collection myself.

It’s full of GAMES!

We finally relaxed on his couch in his room surrounded by games.  I feel welcomed here and relaxed, but a bit out of place for some reason.  Needless to say at this point, the majority of my anxiety had passed and it was time to finally relax for the evening with my bubster and begin our vacation together, because tomorrow was our first Pride event.

Bubby! ❤

Philadelphia Pride

I didn’t really know what to expect from a Pride event beyond a ton of people and lots and lots of symbolism everywhere.  I had always imagined Pride to be a huge, extravagant affair with over the top characters and people everywhere.  The reality, however, was much different from the fantasy.  These were just ordinary people like myself and Matty, just declaring that we’re here and we matter and we’re just people like you.  But I’m jumping ahead a bit.  First we have to actually GET to Pride.

We had an early start that day.  Getting up, showering and getting dressed.  I had bought a leather vest because I knew I was coming to this event and originally wanted to come in style, but style has a pretty hefty price tag so I ended up coming on a sort of budget.  I wore some camouflage shorts with a white shirt and my leather vest on top, leather hat and leather cuff.  I had a feeling it would be warm with all this on, but I had no idea what I was in for.  After leaving the house and making a pit stop for breakfast at the local Wawa we headed to the train station to meet Matty’s friends Craig and his husband Dean.  I had met Craig briefly the day before and thought he was nice (and cute) but I hadn’t met Dean before and didn’t know what to expect.  We arrive at the train station and wait for a minute until we see Craig and Dean pull up in their car.  While waiting we spot a small group of young lesbians (at least we assumed) laughing and waiting for the train.  We get out and wait with Craig and Dean until it was time to get on the train.  Dean is a big, gruff looking daddy bear but he’s also very friendly to me and gave me a hug.  My anxiety was starting to abate, finally.  It felt good to finally be able to let my guard down and take off the mask I wear all the time back in North Carolina.  We get on the train and, before getting there I had a feeling I should’ve been carrying cash, so I had to ask Matty to buy my ticket.  I was so embarrassed.  We pass the time on the train talking about movies and games and such.  Dean and I have a small duet of a couple songs from Rocky Horror after I mentioned that Matty had never seen it before.  We exit the train, finally, and go to street level.  I drop my sunglasses case along the way but fortunately some random guy chased me down and handed it back to me.  Once we get to street level I’m greeted by the sight of city hall, just as I remember it.  I follow along with Matty and the others and as he reaches out to hold my hand as we walk, I feel a certain sense of love and pride and acceptance that I never feel back home.  Once we reach the sanctuary of the gayborhood, I’m a little excited and realize that no matter how much I perceive myself negatively back in North Carolina, here I’m one of them, I’m accepted unconditionally for who I am.  The phrase ‘go where you are celebrated, not tolerated‘ rings in my mind as we stand and wait for the parade to start.  We stand and wait for a while until the signal for the parade is given, at which point the thunderous roar of motorcycles comes to life and fills the streets with a rallying cry.  What followed was a colorful march of people from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, all nationalities and sexual natures.  I tried to photograph and video as much of it as I could, but I also wanted to be in the moment with the others instead of constantly living things behind a lens.  One of the many stand out moments from the parade was a couple of guys peddling pride t-shirts, advertising them to the shouts of “GAY FUCKING PRIDE!” as they walked through the crowd.  I turned to look and, sure enough, the words ‘gay fucking pride’ were plastered across the front with a lengthy slogan on the back that I didn’t catch all of.  I turned my attention constantly between Matty, the parade and our friends Craig and Dean.  Occasionally, one of the marchers in the parade would hand out (or throw) pride items like beads, wrist bands and such, so often, watching the parade quickly turned into a game of duck and cover.  I was lucky enough to be the target of a pair of bead necklaces at one point, so I quickly separated them and gave one to Matty as a memento of our first Pride event.  During the parade, some cowboys came through on horseback, but none of them really did it for me and one of them looked terribly uncomfortable.  I hoped that the horses didn’t shit but, unfortunately later on, the stench of horse poop filled the air.  For the next few minutes, life was a bit unbearable with the scent of horse shit, weed and whatever the guy near us was huffing out of his vape.  After a while, Matty and company spotted their friend Butch in the parade and tried to get his attention but unfortunately he didn’t hear them and kept on going.  Not long after that, the parade was over and it was time to head to their favorite watering hole: The Bike Stop.

The following bits are NOT safe for work and not intended for all audiences.  Proceed with caution!

Now, years ago, when I first came to Philly to see Jeff, he took me to the Bike Stop telling me things like I had the looks to fit in at such a place and how it was kind of a cruisey spot.  I was prepared for it and didn’t expect much, but the Bike Stop that we entered didn’t look a lot like the Bike Stop I remember from back then.  The place I remember had brighter lights and sort of a ‘rated R’ atmosphere.  This place was dark and seedy, and I definitely felt like I was on the set of a porno.  We were the first to arrive so we took seats at the bar and the drinking began.  My tolerance was low since I had mostly given it up after Jeff’s passing, but I decided a little booze might help me relax and be less tense and open up a bit more since I had been fairly quiet most of the time since I was kind of an outsider here.  We had a few drinks, swapped stories and stared at the sexy men scrolling across the screens.  I admitted to the others my feelings of anxiety at meeting them and Matty’s family and they told me not to worry about it.  After all, what was I so worried about?  After a while, the alcohol got the better of me and I had to go pee.  Dean (maybe Craig, I can’t remember who) was kind enough to escort me since I was a bit tipsy and we went to a very small, dark room with a trough filled with ice.  I did my business and went back to my stool at the bar and continued drinking.  As more and more people filed in and I continued to drink, I finally worked up the courage to ask the bartender where he got his harness since I had been eyeballing him like a piece of meat for a couple of beers.  He told me that one of the patrons had made it custom for him and I thanked him but I never followed through with finding out about getting one of my own.  Still not that brave with being partly naked like that with my body in its current shape I suppose.  After a while, and a few more beers, I ended up having to pee again this time Matty went with me since he was a little worried since I was not feeling so great.  We went into the same small, dark room, only it had been a while since I had been in because all the ice was gone.  Matty did his business and walked out leaving me there in my drunken state to pee.  Suddenly, some topless strange guy walks up next to me and asks, “Are you pee shy?” and I honestly tell him “No, I’m just drunk.”  Then he asks me the strangest question any man has ever asked me, and that was, “Mind if I have a drink?” and in my drunken state I’m like “Sure.”  What’s the point of going to Pride if you’re not gonna have some fun right?  The next thing I know, I have the sensation of a hot mouth on my cock and I just empty my bladder into his wet, hungry hole.  It’s the most curious and pleasurable new sensation I’ve had in a long time.  Once I’m done filling him up and emptying myself out, he keeps on sucking me.  I’m thinking to myself ‘shit, I’m gonna get my dick sucked in a public place…!’ but apparently the fun was over just as it was getting started because he pulled away and thanked me for what I gave him and walked out.

I hurriedly turned to face the wall to shove my dick back in my jock strap and stumbled out of the bathroom to find someone in my seat at the bar next to Matty so I decided fuck it and wandered off to sit by myself for a minute.  I sat on a section of floor near the pool table and after a few minutes of people watching, Craig saddles up and asks me if I want to go with him downstairs.  I said ok, and walked with him to the door and faced a perilously steep set of steps that went down into a very dark room.  I was both scared and excited at the same time.  Craig helped my drunk ass down the stairs and what greeted me was not at all what I had imagined.  The room was very small and claustrophobic and lit only by a string of red lights that encircled a recess above the bar plus the light that came from the upstairs and the stock room at the back.  Craig bought me another beer, that I knew I shouldn’t have had, but I decided screw it, I’m on vacation.  That was a choice I was going to shortly regret.  After spending a few minutes in the downstairs with Craig, getting a little more drunk and felt up by random men (and Craig who, once he found out about the sensitivity of my nipples kept torturing me but not finishing me off) I was greeted by Matty’s face appearing in the dim light and giving me a kiss.  I was a little relieved to see him in this sea of strangers.  I had a little more to drink and started to feel a little sick, so Matty helped me back to the upstairs to cool off and sit.  I think I scared him (again) a little bit, so he suggested that we go grab something to eat and I said ok.  We went down the street to grab some pizza and I inhaled my two slices while we walked back to the bar.  I admitted to him what happened to me in the bathroom after he walked out and he laughed and said that guy was notorious for that sort of behavior around the Bike Stop.  I still feel a little weird that I let him do that, and that I enjoyed it.  We make it back to the bar after getting slightly lost to find Craig downstairs making out with random men in the back corner along with Dean.  We stand around for a while and join in the debauchery or groping and kissing, hugging and rubbing, but because of the heat and my dumb decision to wear leather on a hot day, I start to feel overheated (and a tad self conscious) so I tell Matty I’m going upstairs to cool off for a bit.  I walk out on to the street and lean up against the building and do a little people watching until Matty appears outside to stand with me for a while.

Checking my phone while I had the opportunity, I realized that he’d been looking for me while I was outside.  At this point in the day, even though it’s been an amazing experience for my first ever Pride, I’m kinda over the crowd and the noise.  We’ve made our outcry to a massive city where we’re barely a blip on the radar, just a group of rabble rousers proclaiming our existence and place in everything, our right to exist.  We have allies everywhere, but we still look out for each other.  That’s why we call each other family.  We gather our friends and start the long trek back to the 7pm train home, and I watch as they reluctantly tell their friends goodbye as we make our way out of the gayborhood sanctuary and back into the urban jungle.  I watch as several young kids laugh, play and race along the streets and wonder what it must be like to grow up in such a place.  Certainly it must be better than where I grew up because you have more exposure to different people and cultures and ways of life instead of only getting the smallest glimpse of such things in an academic setting.  We make it back to the train station and wait for the train to arrive.  We haul our exhausted selves on board and take seats together, placing our tickets in the seat tabs so the conductors can see.  I take off my glasses and curl up, pulling my hat down over my eyes.  I’m tired and feel like a gross, sweaty man whore and I don’t want to be touched by anyone until I’m able to wash away the sin and debauchery of the day, knowing full well that there’s no water hot enough that will cleanse me of what I’d done.  But you know what?  If I had the opportunity I’d do it all over again.  Nearing our destination, Dean says he has to get off and use the bathroom, it can’t wait.  So I watch, sadly as my new friends get off the train leaving me and Matty on our own in the big wide world.  Reluctantly, I put my arm around him (I still feel really gross) and we ride the train into the night back to where our day began.  I hope I can make it back for Pride next year!

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Warmind

Destiny, part 30

So the latest Destiny 2 expansion, Warmind, was released three weeks ago today.  I’m still not thrilled about the unimaginative name, but I was and am more pleased with this expansion than Curse of Osiris.  I do feel that the main story was somewhat rushed because I feel that they could have padded things out and made it a little longer, but overall I enjoyed the tale.

Story

I did have a few problems with the story though.  The first was, how did a Hive Worm God get to Mars without us knowing about it?  How long has it been there?  Did it come during the collapse?  Did it come after and get buried, or did it come and has been hiding and drawing power until this moment?  Second is its companion, Nokris.  We only have mention of Nokris once back on the Dreadnaught in the form of a statue outside Oryx’s throne room.  We believed that he – or it – was dead, but it turns out that all record of Nokris was expunged from Hive archives because he/she/it/whatever dabbles in Necromancy.  Ummm, ok…that’s stretching things a bit far for me because don’t the rest of the Hive also dabble in Necromancy in one way or another?

My second problem with the story, and this is a SPOILER if you haven’t finished the main quest of the Warmind DLC yet, is how the hell did Zavala get to Rasputin’s room before Ana and myself?  How did he know where it was?  Ana said that she’d been searching for it for a while now but Zavala seemed to know where it was and got there before we did.  (And once we got there, he proceeded to scold us as though he were an angry parent.  Hmph!)  That one I find a bit hard to swallow as well, but, I’ll go with it for the sake of moving the story along.

Speaking of Rasputin, the reveal with him at the end when he states what it is he wants and what he’s going to do was rather mind blowing.  His “voice” is both fascinating and frightening and immediately commands your attention.  I’m both optimistic like Ana but a little fearful like Zavala.  I’m wondering how much help Rasputin will be able to provide when the next threat comes along, or even if he’ll help us at all.  I’m fantasizing that when those weird ships from the end of vanilla Destiny 2 arrive that he’ll launch an all out assault against them, for what that’s worth.

Rasputin himself.

I did find it to be a bit of intelligent design that they built a super computer on the polar ice cap of a planet.  What better place to build a computer than somewhere that’s extraordinarily cold?

Collectibles

I was a little disappointed in the fact that there are only two Lost Sectors in this expansion, but, there’s a lot going on in both of them.  I like the new Exotics and the updated/remade ones that made it into this expansion.  It’s nice that there are more Regional Chests this time around too.  Gives me something easy to hunt for and collect.  Speaking of collecting, there are also these things:

This is the very first one that you’ll come across during the course of the Warmind campaign.  Shooting it yielded nothing so then we began to think that perhaps there was something related to the main story line that we had to accomplish or unlock.  It wasn’t until later that we realized that they were each of a specific element: solar, arc and void!  We also discovered that there were three of them that could only be broken by the Valkyrie.  Once you find all 45 of them, this Exotic Sparrow and Exotic Sword are your rewards:

I was (and am) also pleased with the tantalizing bits of lore that are scattered throughout the expansion:

After reading all of these, I wonder what Divergence was?

Along with the lore objects from my inventory pictured above, there are quite a few scattered through out the Hellas Basin region of Mars.  The one item that was of the most interest to me was found in one of two Lost Sectors on Mars, and that item was Prince Uldrin’s crashed ship.  The last we saw of the good prince, he was helping to fight off the Hive invasion during The Taken King.  Once Oryx fires the main weapon on the Dreadnaught, that’s kind of the last time we see Uldrin.  I just wonder what’s in store for us regarding him and when we’ll meet him again…?

I was also very pleased with the changes to Eververse.  Every week, you’re given a free random item from a menu of ten items called the Prismatic Matrix and you’re guaranteed NOT to get any duplicate items on the matrix menu if you already have then, essentially making the Prismatic Matrix a sort of collectible checklist.  I like this because it gives players a better chance to get the Exotic ships, emotes and Sparrows unlike before.

I like the new multi Emote system, but the interface for accessing and changing your Emotes runs a bit sluggish and at times is nearly unresponsive.

Environment

I love the environment and the new spaces we get to explore.

Right outside Rasuptin’s room.  The structure is HUGE and a bit intimidating, and definitely gives me flashbacks of the end of Wrath of the Machine.

The outside, the surface of Mars, is interesting in and of itself, but the place that I like the most is Alton Dynamo.  I like the industrial and technological feel of the place, as well as it’s grim emptiness and overwhelming feeling of loneliness and solitude.  I can imagine that, long ago, this place was buzzing with Clovis Bray faculty as they struggled to get Rasputin up and running before The Collapse consumed them all.

It’s nice that they give us a “map” of the place.

I love this server room.  It feels like they took the server room from Wrath of the Machine and sort of refined the design, re-writing the script so to speak, giving the place a nice paint job and making it equally as eerie as its predecessor.

I imagine during the Golden Age that this transit system was bustling with activity.  

Admiring the front facade of Braytech Futurescape.  I like how the glass in the front is reminiscent of the Titan helmets.

Same place, just after the sun has set.

Rasputin’s housing

Happened to catch a Warsat fall from the sky and crash and just the right moment.

The Grind

Now lets talk about the “endgame” for this expansion.  First off, there are these things all over Mars:

Sleeper Nodes.  In my opinion, they are this expansion’s Prophecy Tablets.  The only difference is there were a small number of Prophecy Tablets where as there are 40 Sleeper Nodes.  In Osiris you needed Paradox Amplifiers and Radiolarian Cultures in order to complete each tablet and you only had 3 tablets to choose from each week.  You could only get these components by doing Heroic Strikes and a handful of other in game activities.  Once the tablets were done, that was pretty much it.  You only got one copy of each weapon from each tablet (at least I did) and the end game grind was over with after a few weeks.  This time around you have to grind for Resonate Stems and you get them by doing public events, patrols, lost sectors, adventures and killing random high value targets that happen to wander by.  Once you have four Stems, you can craft an Override Frequency key.

Four of these…

…to make one of these.  And you can only have one at a time.

Once you have the key, it will give you a three word hint as to where its corresponding Sleeper Node is located.  Once you get close, the node will open and start playing music and if you can’t really see where it is, a somewhat annoying orange/yellow oval will start to fill your field of view if you happen to be looking in the direction of the node.  Once you find the node and claim your (usually disappointing) loot, you start the process over again by crafting a new Override Frequency key and starting the search again.  There’s a few problems I have with this system.  The first is that the only thing you’re doing all of this irritating leg work for is an Emblem.  That’s it…and Emblem.  Why?  The second problem I have with this is that the nodes once found and opened, don’t disappear.  They remain in the field of play and can actually be opened again and again and again.  If you’re a completionist (like someone I know) this can be a huge problem.  I feel like this definitely needs to be addressed.  The third is that when you create an Override Frequency it has a tendency to unlock a Sleeper Node on the other side of the map.  Seriously?

The second part of the endgame for this expansion is Escalation Protocol.  Escalation Protocol is a new type of public event that players can either initiate (assuming you’ve completed the Warmind campaign) or participate in if someone else has started.  It takes the entire server to cooperate in order to succeed.

You can start the fight at any of these access points scattered across Mars.

What you have to do is fight off waves of Hive in each Level of Escalation.  There are four waves for each level and a total of eight levels to complete.  At first it was a little bit of a struggle for players (including myself) to get anywhere in the first level.  But now, three weeks later (and assuming there are enough cooperative players around), it’s becoming much easier to reach levels two, three and occasionally four.  From what I can tell, it’s the same routine for each level:  wave one is to kill the Hive, wave two is to diffuse the Shadow Rift and then destroy the three crystals that surround it, wave three is to kill more Hive and then on the fourth wave is the boss encounter for that level.

Pictured on the left are the four waves of Escalation Protocol.  In the distance you can see the Shadow Rift and the crystals that surround it.

Sounds easy enough, and as long as you’re of a high enough Light Level it is, it’s just that the entire time you’re fighting you’re under a time limit.  And as you progress through levels the enemies becoming progressively harder.  At the time of this writing, the farthest that I’ve managed to get was wave four of level four.  That was both exciting and extremely difficult as the fourth level and wave was seemingly nothing but bosses.  It was also disappointing as you get rewards for finishing levels four and eight respectively.  I have a bad feeling that finishing Escalation Protocol in its entirety might be one of the Moments of Triumph for this year.  If it is, I hope that we can come together to complete it.

And old favorite Public Event from the original Destiny made its return in this expansion: Defending The Warsat

Only this time around, as is the case with all Destiny 2 public events, there’s a twist.  The Warsat is surrounded by three Hive Shriekers and each one must be destroyed in succession in order to make the event Heroic.

And then a couple days after the release of Warmind, there was this.  I’m sure we’ll get to it eventually but I’d like to do the other two parts of Leviathan first.

Sleeper Simulant

During the lead up to the release of Warmind, there were rumors that one of my favorite Exotic weapons from the first Destiny – Sleeper Simulant – was going to make a return in this expansion.  I feel like this would have been a pleasant surprise had I not known about it before hand.  This quest chain back in the first Destiny was a fun surprise when it arrived.  I remember the community being excited to be working together to try to figure out what the hell was going on.  Once the mystery was solved and we all had this new and unusual gun to play with, we went about our merry way blasting holes in everything that got in our way and occasionally killing ourselves when a stray shot would ricochet and come back to haunt us.

This time around, much to my disappointment, there wasn’t much in the way of a mystery or anything in the way of a community effort to try to figure out what was going on.  This time around, you were pretty much just handed the quest chain and sent to go and grind until you got what you were after.

And what a long grind that was too.

I was happy to have Sleeper Simulant back considering what I had to go through to get it in both games, but ultimately I’m a little disappointed since there wasn’t much of a mystery combined with the fact that this new version of the gun only holds two shots in the barrel making it somewhat useless or not as versatile/powerful as its former self.  I’m holding out hope that once the Masterwork Catalyst for this weapon is added to the game that the ammo issue will be upgraded.  I sort of feel like it was only really added back to the game to silence the constant complaints of the community.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I’m mostly pleased with Warmind, I just feel like some parts of it could have been better.  I’m looking forward to seeing whatever it is that Bungie has in store for us at E3.

 

Who Was I?

Destiny, part 29

Guardians aren’t supposed to investigate their past, that’s the rule.

Yesterday was the reveal of the next Destiny 2 expansion, Warmind.  I have to say that I’m a bit disappointed in the DLC’s title, but that’s a complaint for another entry.  What’s rolling around in my head right now isn’t the new space we’re going to inhabit or the new armor and weapons and other goodies that are in store.  No.  What’s keeping me awake is the first line of the trailer, spoken by Ana Bray (or Anastasia Bray if you’re nasty):  Guardians aren’t supposed to investigate their past, that’s the rule.

Not once in the years of playing Destiny did it ever occur to me that I was somebody during the years of the Golden Age or the horrors of The Collapse.  I was a person.  I had a life.  And all of that was snuffed out when the agents of The Darkness came to destroy everything that we had built.  I ceased to be, for a time anyway.  Then one day, my Ghost found me among the numerous dead and brought me back from the hereafter to defend the last vestiges of humanity from extinction.  Why?  Why was I chosen?  Was there something special about me back then?  Did I do something amazing?  Or did I just have the right connections?  If I’m not allowed to investigate who I was, I’ll never know.

Resurrected for what purpose?  To be another killing machine for The Traveler?  And who is it that makes this rule that we aren’t supposed to investigate our past?  And more importantly, I find it hard to swallow that any information from the Golden Age about Joe Smith is on file anywhere in the ruins of the present, so why even make this rule in the first place?  I believe someone else, someone powerful, had something to say about the past recently which has also been rolling around in my head for weeks:

Let the past die.  Kill it, if you have to.  That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.

Maybe not knowing who/what I was in my past is for the best and letting it go is a good thing.  Maybe being chosen by The Traveler and Ghost is a form of redemption of past sins.  Maybe all of the Destiny universe is actually Purgatory after a fashion.

Maybe in all these variant universes, there’s information on who I was……

And maybe I shouldn’t take video game trailers so seriously.  Goodnight.

Times Completed

So I’ve had this old box of blank cards that belonged to my deceased father laying around my house since I moved in, and for the longest time I had no idea what I wanted to do with them.  The box recently found its way on top of the small stand near my front door and has been sitting there next to the router since.  Then one day, when I was using the box as a hard surface to sign my pizza delivery receipt for the umpteenth time, it hit me:  I would use them to track how many times I finished a retro game!

A relic from the past

That’s a lot of games to track

So today, in an effort to keep myself entertained, I took out my handy dandy new label maker (just picked it up over the weekend and I’ve been dying to use it) and started making the cards while binge watching The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes on Netflix.  It’s only a 4 episode series but I love watching Piers and Caroline critique these amazing houses around the world.  It’s definitely made me love New Zealand even more than I already did.

Time to get to gaming!

First I thought I would write the date I beat the game on the card, but thought that after a while it would take multiple cards to keep track of the completion record.  So I’ve decided to just make tally marks which will take up less space on the cards.  Ultimately the dates that I beat a game don’t really matter anyway.

But I digress.  While watching the series for about the third or fourth time today and making more cards, a question came to mind:  when and why did I start to think of my retro games in terms of how many times I had finished them?

Labels, labels, labels

I suppose that idea was planted in my head when I decided to join Matty in the 52 games in a year challenge.  There’s only so much time in a year and replaying a game, such as an old NES or SNES title, would definitely help in padding the number of games you can finish in a year.  If it’s a game you know well, know where everything is and possibly know how to speedrun it, you’d be able to reach 52 quickly.  But if you’re playing nothing but new release titles, you don’t really have any idea when you’ll be finished and there’s always the possibility you’d be stuck on a game for longer than you anticipate.

The finished product.  Time to start gaming!

Sadly, this year has been kind of a bust so far in terms of games completed.  Emotional setbacks combined with equipment failures don’t exactly motivate me to get back up and keep trying, but hopefully soon I’ll get back on track and continue my trek to 52!

Saturday Morning

Outside the world was dreary, but vibrant with life.  Inside there was nothing but silence and the rolling screensaver from Netflix, another night of binge sleeping through all the episodes of Grace & Frankie.  I stumble, groggily, to the kitchen for coffee mulling over the disastrous and gross state of the floor.  Imagining the horror of tiles breaking as I rolled the refrigerator across them to position it back in its alcove on the opposite wall. Grout and sealant will be purchased this month, I thought, as the Keurig whined about making me a coffee.  If anyone could see my face right now, they’d think I was angry, when in fact I’m just trying to wake up.  I sat down and grabbed my laptop, thoughts swirling in my head like a storm that I must navigate.  The irritating sound of the windows rattling as the train passed by mingled with the tune to Sade’s ‘Soldier of Love’ as I thought about the events of the day.  Finally getting to have lunch with Glenn and William after nearly a month.  Glenn was finally getting the cabinet out of the front room.  It’s all starting to come together in there and will be “done” once I make a few more trips to IKEA for the shelving I want and once I decide whether to keep the rest of my World of Darkness books.  I say “done” as I still haven’t found the kind of video game decor for the room that pleases me that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.  Where’s my damn coffee?  As I sip, I think about the year ahead.  Still filled with an amazing amount of dread over my future trips to Philadelphia to see Matty.  I can’t let what Jeffery said to me at the end ruin this beautiful and amazing city for me anymore.  There is still so much more to see and do and experience.  Fuck him, he’s dead anyway.  Chalk that one up to the mistakes pile along with Stuart and Chris and the innumerable list of things I wish I had and hadn’t said to the innumerable list of people I wish I had and hadn’t said those things to.

How many times have I listened to this damn song? Ugh…I’m a soldier of love, but I need something with a beat. Ah, here we go, some Slayer should do.

Opening my email anymore fills me with vomity horror as it’s never anything anymore but the shitty things that the Trump administration is doing.  Sign these 500 petitions to help save the world.  Yeah, right.  My emails anymore are nothing but an exhaustive list of shipments from either eBay, Amazon or Gaming Relics, or creepy emails from Target telling me “that thing you looked at is on sale, buy it”.  Stop being a creep Target.

Time for more coffee!  I’ve picked up the cup twice now and realized I drank it all.

Bloodborne.  It’s been 2 years since I beat the game with that gangly British twat’s help then subsequently abandoned once he got the platinum trophy.  This time around, I’ll get the damn platinum since my brothers in arms are playing it with me.  This will be the second game this year that I came close to getting the platinum in the past only to have victory jerked out from underneath me.  Infamous and the trophy glitch and then Bloodborne and someone else’s selfishness.  I can’t even listen to his music now without getting angry since he unfriended me a few weeks ago.  It’s whatever though.  Had anything ever come of it, it would have just been more amazing sex with a crazy person and we all know how that ends.

Looking at my release calendar, I need to do more writing.  Seriously.  I have so much to say and only so much time to say it.

There’s a lot to look forward to though.  E3 this year is going to be amazing.  There’s already been a few things announced that I’m interested in seeing more of (Smash Bros for the Switch? Yes please!) and other things that have been mentioned or shown in the past that I hope make an appearance this year.  E3 is almost like the carrot on the stick to help me and Matty get through the shitty opening to this year. It’s not been good for either of us, but I argue that it’s been a lot worse for him than for me.  10 hour work days along with winter storms that have knocked out power.  Just wanna give him a hug and remind him I love him and I’m here for him, always.  The other big event this year is the meetup in Atlantic City.  I’m still super nervous and full of dread about going to that too, but I’m sure it will be a good time.  Both events are definitely keeping me motivated to get up and keep on living.

Now that I’m fully awake and energized, there’s a lot to do and I have no motivation to do any of it.  Let’s do it anyway.

A Crack

Destiny, part 28

Imagine being in a dark room, perhaps a prison cell with no windows or doors.  Maybe even a deep, dark cave.  You’re there alone and all is silent, but miserable.  And quiet.  So very quiet.  Suddenly, off in the distance, or perhaps not so far, there is a crack.  It is small at first, and the light it emits is dim, but it is there none the less.  It is a sight that stings the eyes, for it is foreign and unfamiliar.

A crack in the darkness

It’s late at night and a couple members of the clan and I decided to play some Destiny 2 since the Bloodborne servers were down, probably thanks to the game being free this month for PlayStation Plus members.  I’m actually interested in playing Destiny 2 again now that the Nightfall isn’t a nightmare to complete anymore.  Last week, with the new system implemented, we tried it out and finished with a score around 20,000.  This week, we improved our score and got up to 26,000.

This week’s Nightfall is the Pyramidion again, but it’s at least not a total nightmare anymore.

What they’ve done – and should’ve done all along – is let you decide how hard you want to make Nightfall for yourself.  The non Prestige version has no modifiers, just a score and a clock that shows how long you’ve been at it.  The Prestige is where it gets interesting.  Now you can choose how hard you want to make the enemies you face and what burns you want to activate, if any.  Tonight we tried a Prestige run and managed to make it with minimal fuss.  Getting the Aura now is going to be just as difficult as before, and probably still not worth the effort.  Also, there’s specialized Emblems for each new Nightfall that can be customized assuming you hit the required score for each variant.  I’m happy with the way Nightfall works now and hopefully this means we as a clan will gather to do it each week now.

In other news, the latest Iron Banner is happening and I’m actually excited to participate because the Warlock armor is beautiful and looks very Asian inspired.  At least this time around I won’t be going in alone.

Now, let’s go get those treasure maps and head for Nessus…

Relationships, part 17

Gerald,

There was a time that I thought you were the one. There was a time that I thought you could be my boyfriend, my husband, my lover, my spouse, my power of attorney, my widow. There was a time that talking to you every day brought me joy, it brought me happiness. There was a time when I looked forward to talking to you, to gaming with you every day, to hearing your voice, to seeing your face. But now I don’t feel like I’m looking at the same person, I don’t feel like I mean anything to you anymore. I don’t understand what’s changed, what’s happened.

I didn’t think it was appropriate for you to send me snapchats of you and your boyfriend in bed together and I also thought it was a little tacky for you to send me snapchats while you were out doing stuff together. It was almost like you were rubbing it in my face that you had a boyfriend but I was still single. Speaking of snapchat, I found your excessive use of it (instead of carrying on a normal conversation like a normal person) to be very annoying. At least that’s one thing I’ll never have to deal with again.

Thanks for ruining The Smashing Pumpkins for me and I hope you can find people willing to put up with your stupidity enough to game with you in Destiny 2 and Killing Floor 2. If anyone between the two of us should be angry, it should be me. You pretty much just up and left me behind on consoles to go do PC gaming instead. I guess my friendship just wasn’t good enough for you, was it? You’re just like every other faggot I’ve ever met on the internet, only interested in me for my looks and once you got tired of looking at that you moved on. Typical.

Oh, and the beginning of the year when I was sick as fuck for like 3 months and you were being really pissy and annoying because you wanted to carry on a full on conversation when all I wanted and needed to do was rest and sleep? Fuck you for that too. I’m beginning to think that maybe the Canadians in Quebec and Nova Scotia are the only decent ones because the further west you travel the more you guys turn into assholes (just like Americans). I used to think your ex was an asshole for leaving you, but now I’m beginning to think that maybe he had the right idea. You’re just an asshole, plain and simple. If you wanted to know how I felt about you, you could have asked instead of making assumptions and spreading lies. Yes, there was a time that I liked you and thought you might have been the one, but that changed when I realized you’re a fucking drunk just like Jeffery was, and any hope I had for you died when you told me you used MDMA. I’m certainly not going to have anything to do with a drug addict, so why don’t you do everyone a favor and either overdose or get clean before you hurt someone else’s feelings.

I’m leaving you in 2017 with the rest of the trash. Goodbye and good luck.

Alanis Morissette – You Learn

Oh, oh, oh

I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah
I, recommend walking around naked in your living room, yeah

Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles

You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn

I, recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone
I certainly do
I, recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Feel free

Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
Hold it up (to the rays)
You wait and see when the smoke clears

You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn

I, I, oh, oh

Wear it out (the way a three-year-old would do)
Melt it down (you’re gonna have to eventually, anyway)
The fire trucks are coming up around the bend

You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn

You grieve you learn, you choke you learn
You laugh you learn, you choose you learn
You pray you learn, you ask you learn
You live you learn