It’s 3:30 am and deathly quiet. Gary and Paul have gone to sleep, as have Josh and Eugene. Mike is staying at Rachel’s house. I’m sitting at the glass table in what might be called the dining room – it is adjacent to the kitchen, and surely would serve that function in any traditional dwelling. The laptop is fighting for surface space with the usual assortment of food fallout and draft droppings. I’m a king holding court before the residuals of a fun day, and surely mine is the kingdom where napkins, electronics and weathered copies of Spark Spray can coexist peaceably. I am glad that my rule has fostered such prosperity.
To understand how it is, here in the darkness, you have to know a little about how Pittsburgh settles into the night here on Hobart Street. As the light fades out of the Pennsylvania sky, the mood of the low lying air seems to darken with the spectrum. It is thick and hot, like the shimmering atmosphere around some mammoth machine that has been working very hard, the exertions of the Steel City made manifest. No surface escapes the clammy feel that comes with these conditions, and even now I can register that burgeoning moisture against my hands, my forehead, my lips. My wrists are in partial contact with the tabletop as I strike the keys. Should I stop and lean back, my skin does not lift from the tabletop so much as”peel off” of it. The sound reminds me of what you might hear while removing an old Band-Aid, and it occurs to me now that sound is as much a part of the falling night as heat or darkness.
As the darkness proceeds like a shade across Pittsburgh, the Hobart house fades gradually into peaceful silence. The only sound I can hear now is the pitter-patter of this keyboard overtop of constantly whining hard disk rotations. Twenty feet away, two fans are emitting a soft hum as they endeavor to keep the temperature in the living room below a moderate boil. Every so often my chair creaks softly as I switch position. That is all. There are no horns honking in the distance, nor police sirens. No cars are passing by. The sounds of the late evening have departed. The air is unbroken by squeaking hinges or the thick, pregnant click of parting magnetic seals that always accompanies the opening of the nearby refrigerator.
Each night, just like this, a stillness and a silence of some magnitude falls. Televisions gradually get switched off, the padded mutter of gamer feet first slows and then moves into extinction as each gamer settles into bed with one final crackle of worn springs. Robbed of human companionship, the DDR pads are nothing more than unlit and dormant squares of shadow-shrouded gray and pink. 5838 Hobart St. is at rest. That’s how it is here in the darkness.
This writer, though, is not At Rest. Actually, I’ve got a lot on my mind. You shall know it all.
In my hometown of Sarnia, Ontario, I am probably the most prominent Magic player. The reasons for this are pretty straightforward – I have better finishes, more experience, more lifetime winnings (all of $1,200, whoo-frickin’-hoo) and more name recognition than anyone else in our little city of 80,000.
I’m not saying these things to blow my own horn, but to help you understand my feelings of late. (I’d like to think that if I wanted to gloat in print to make myself feel like a big man, I would do it with a lot more style.) I’m no prima donna. I just play and try to have fun, like everyone else. If people ask me for advice, it makes me proud to be able to help them out. That said, if someone in Sarnia wanted to put together a team to run a grinder at Pro Tour: Boston, I would probably be the first choice.
I’m sure you can see where this is going. My role when I’m at Mike Turian place is so different that it is hard to adjust – and sometimes my feelings get hurt a little, though I know for sure that nothing negative is intended.
Movie montage time: The Story Of Geordie Tait.
Quick cut to a room. Wide angle shot, panning across. Gary Wise is drafting on MODO, a practice run to get more familiar with the cards in his expected Team Rochester colors. Gary hasn’t drafted OLS too heavily, and for the purposes of comparing”game theory notes” he wants some opinions on a few prospective picks and deckbuilding choices. Also in the room are Eugene Harvey, Josh Rider, Paul Sottosanti, and Geordie Tait. A poker program is on the television. The air conditioner is providing background noise to augment the clattering of keys and light conversation. Gary is on his second MODO draft of the night, and this is after two team drafts in the afternoon. He is gearing up for Boston in a big way.
“What do you think, Eugene?”
“Josh, tell me what you think about this pick.”
“Paul, give me a hand making these cuts.”
All three jump in to help. Geordie Tait though, remains At Rest. Gary needs no help from our hero, despite his massive $1,200 in lifetime winnings. It stings a little, but he says nothing. All he wants is for Gary, Eugene, Josh, and Paul to be prepared for Boston. He tells himself that for better or for worse, the story of these friends, new and old, will unfold in Beantown. His job is to tell the story, not to inject himself into it where he doesn’t belong.
Quick cut to CMU. Chairs and tables abound, the smell of fries is everywhere. A team draft is starting. Geordie certainly wants to team draft with Eugene, Gary, and Mike, and throws his hat into the ring. It seems that the matchup will be Paul, Geordie, and JoshR against the other three, and that’s exciting for our hero – if he can prove that is good enough to team with Josh and Paul, they might want him for their team in Boston! There is one other consideration, though – Rachel Reynolds is also present, and unlike Geordie she is actually qualified for Boston and likewise needs to test.
The teams quickly become Gary, Eugene and Mike against Paul, Josh and Rachel. Geordie Tait is left with no option but to remain At Rest. It stings a little, but really, it makes sense – he is not qualified and has no team. The best course of action is to observe and to learn, not to waste time griping about a decision that makes perfect sense anyway.
Quick cut to another room. Josh Rider and Gary Wise are discussing possible options for the third player on the Rider/Sottosanti/X team that will be trying to grind into Pro Tour: Boston with plenty of blocking help. Also in the room is Geordie Tait, sprawled on Mike Turian bed before this very laptop. It doesn’t take long for him to come to the realization that Josh and Paul have no interest in teaming with him and will probably not consider him as an option unless all other avenues are exhausted. This is very disappointing to him, but despite his feelings he remains silent. At Rest.
If you were looking right at him, you might see a twinge of pain in his face…But only for a second.
The guy on the bed tells himself not to be sad about it. No sense giving Josh, Gary and Paul more to worry about before the big event. Josh is trying to break onto the gravy train, and Gary is at the start of what Geordie hopes to be a Magic resurgence in both his writing and his play. How can Geordie begrudge Paul and Josh a different third, with so many good North American and European players still teamless? He can’t. He won’t.
He doesn’t think that Paul and Josh would ever express their opinions about it unless he asked them point blank. They wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings – Josh Rider is a very nice guy, and having now met Paul, Geordie can confirm that he is likewise a very good man. Asking point blank is something he is too scared to do. He is scared because he thinks he knows what the answer would be.
“You make too many mistakes. You ended up with deck registration errors at both Canadian Nationals and the subsequent team PTQ, and your Limited articles show that you have some card evaluation issues to work out even after 400 drafts. Who ranks Bonethorn Valesk above Goblin Brigand, even in U/R? You don’t have enough Rochester draft experience. You don’t have enough Pro Tour experience. We like you – but we want to win this Pro Tour.”
Fade out. Exit stage left.
Gary Wise told me during the drive up from Toronto that one of his favorite phrases, one that he trots out only on the most appropriate occasions, consists of only one word.
In this case, the advice is good advice, though I don’t plan to wait until Gary sees fit to give it before I make some adjustments to my attitude. It’s an age-old problem. You take a fish out of a tiny pond and throw him into a big lake, he’s suddenly a guppie in a world of sharks. Our fishy protagonist might have it tough for a while, true, but eventually he’ll just have to swallow his pride and start swimming around again.
What does this mean for me? It means that I may not get to team with Josh and Sotto, I may not have Gary solicit advice from me, and I may have to sit out of drafts while the more established players practice. If that’s the way it is, then that is the way it is. I’ll cope. I still have this laptop, I still have my camera, and I still have a story to tell. Come Boston I’ll be cheering on my friends, new and old. I’ll be taking snapshots and fetching drinks. Go ahead and call me a”barn,” if you want – I don’t care. For now at least, this is where I belong, and I’m happy.