The wait will be an hour and forty minutes,” the hostess told us. Pete Hoefling looked aghast.
We walked out. I said“I told you… everyone in this town goes to Outback on the weekends.”
“Yeah. But that’s ridiculous.”
And it is. Really. But hey, people are willing to wait for a place like that. Why? Atmosphere.
So, we head back to our cars (well, my painstakingly normal car and the StarCityccg.com-Mobile!), trying to come up with another place to eat. Pete spies a place called Dino’s Subs, in the same shopping center. We decide to go. On the way, I spy a placed called Daisai, a Japanese restaurant. Knowing Pete’s disposition for Kabuki (similar to Bennihana’s, the Japanese“cook on your table and entertain you with knives” type place), I suggest we try it. Pete agrees and we head in.
The names are mostly unpronounceable and wholly mysterious. I swear, it’s one step off of gambling.
I order a shrimp noodle plate, while Pete randomly picks something that includes beef teriyaki.
To spare you the gritties, they didn’t have silverware on the tables so I watch Pete eat his ginger salad and then his dinner with a single chopstick, in the grand American tradition of poking things with sharp objects. He also doesn’t touch his California Rolls (sushi) or Tempura.
Not to criticize what people eat– because everyone is entitled to likes what they likes, and I know Pete is picky, anyway, but it got me thinking.
Green Eggs and Ham. You know, where Sam-I-Am keeps offering the narrator free green eggs and ham, and he won’t take them, because he“doesn’t like them.” But, you know the narrator has never had them before; he’s just judging them on their color. In the end, he finally tries them. His words:
“Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do, I like them, Sam-I-Am!”
And so, the story ends happily.
Aside: Did you know that there are only fifty different words in Green Eggs and Ham? It was written to help children take their first steps into reading, by giving them a basic vocabulary.
We, as Magic players, have been given a unique gift. Magic is a game played all over the world, which has its own basic vocabulary. No matter the national origins of my opponents, be they deaf or blind or whatever, I can play a game of Magic with them. Starting at the simplest level, of gestures and common words, there will be very little difficulty playing for hours, unimpeded by the fact that my opponent only speaks Russian or Arabic, and I do not. This is one of the beauties of the game: its universality.
In America, we tend to take the easy way out, when culture is concerned. Unlike most other countries, we don’t usually teach a second language to our students until high school. We get our impressions of international cuisine and culture from American franchises and films. The food at Chi-Chi’s or Chili’s is not Mexican– it’s American. Thanks to the Outback and Crocodile Dundee, most Americans think that Australia is a huge wasteland/jungle where people are either crocodile hunters or steak-eating machines.
I may be wrong, but my encyclopedia does not list cattle as a major part of Australian life. Nor do they go around ending every sentence with“mate (the same goes for the Canadians and“eh”).”
Magic offers us something that is very difficult to find– a simple way to connect to other cultures in the purest sense: on a personal level. I’ve gotten email from Magic players on six continents, in dozens of different countries. That’s amazing to me. I always try to answer players from other countries– and sneak in a couple of personal questions. From things as small as“how’s the weather” all the way up to“how do you feel about communism,” you would be surprised what people will answer, simply because I tap the same mana they do. There is a lot to be learned.
For example, awhile ago, I read a couple of reports about Magic in Japan. Now, I *so* want to go visit! To me, it would be amazing to see a place where practically everybody has top-level ethics, regardless of activity. I can barely fathom it… a place where honesty is the policy and the honor system has some meaning.
I learned these things about Japanese culture, strictly through Magic: the Gathering.
And now, thanks to Magic, I have a place to start, when I hit Tokyo. In fact, I can probably meet someone who would be willing to show me around the city a little, just by playing cards. Just think, the possibility of a free tour guide, who’ll show you the real stuff, not the tourist traps. A local friend. Ask a frequent traveler: that’s priceless. At the very worst, the local Magic players can tell you about the nice restaurants.
Another example, which is far more common. Here is a list of cities that I have traveled to, on trips strictly for Magic purposes:
Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond, Arlington, Washington D.C. (Virginia), High Point (North Carolina), Baltimore (Maryland), Knoxville (Tennessee), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), New York (New York), Newark (New Jersey), Columbus (Ohio) and Milwaukee (Wisconsin). I was offered a trip to San Diego (California), which I had to decline, and am soon going to Seattle (Washington).
That’s eleven different states, all over the country. For the sole purpose of a game, I have been to different cities in over 20% of this country– and I’m not even real big on qualifiers and Grand Prix. Some people travel all over the world to play.
On those Magic trips (barring the ones in which I’ve lived or have lifelong friends), I’ve only gotten away from the Magic part to sightsee/hang out in two of the cities.
I find fault with this.
Those were the last two I visited, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Lately, it just seems like when I travel hours to draft at some strange hotel in some strange city, I could have done the same basic thing at home. I want to get out and stretch my legs… take a little cursory hop around a new city. Explore. See the interesting things, look through the interesting shops– take something home with me, besides the memory of a draft.
I mean, what good is it to be so well traveled, if the only thing you ever do is play Magic? Really?
“So, what did you do in Paris?”
“I played Magic.”
“Oh really? How about London?”
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t travel to play Magic– that’s one of the amazing things about the game– that people DO travel to play it. But, we should make the most of the travel– lots of people, who aren’t as free to travel as the average Magic player, would love to spend time on the road, touring cities. Magic players are afforded the opportunity.
Take advantage of it!
Don’t draft Friday night, after you get to the hotel. Ask the concierge (or, at the more self-service hotels, clerk) where you should go. Find stuff that interests you, then spend the money you would have dropped into the draft on a taxi and get out there! That way, even if you scrub out at the tournament, you’ll have something interesting to talk about on the way home. Who knows, you may even pick up some culcha.
Magic has grown into a lot more than a game; it’s a social community, which is pretty accepting. Be a part of it.
And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses
began to melt away until gradually I became aware
of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’
eyes– a fresh, green beast of a new world.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald”
-should have been the flavor text on Overlaid Terrain.