You Lika The Juice? – Time, Love, Life

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Wednesday, August 6th – Apologies in advance for those of you looking for the typical Bennie-romp through some fun Magic topic. This week is not going to be one of those. I debated begging off this week, but… despite the many roles I play in Life, at heart I’m a writer, and writing is often how I make sense of things, how I connect with the world, how I cope…

Many great dears are taken away,
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn…)
Besides the photo and the memory?
(…that time is the fire in which we burn.)

Delmore Schwartz, Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day

Apologies in advance for those of you looking for the typical Bennie-romp through some fun Magic topic. This week is not going to be one of those. I debated begging off this week, but… despite the many roles I play in Life, at heart I’m a writer, and writing is often how I make sense of things, how I connect with the world, how I cope.

Time. At my age it seems to run awfully fast. Remember as a child, when summers were a gloriously long and wonderful time for playing with friends and discovering life? And how painfully long the school year was, the grueling grind plowing through your studies as you yearned for the summer break that seemed to always be so far away? On a smaller scale, remember being told that a car trip would take two hours? Two hours?! That’s forever!

As we grow older, two hours is nothing. The three months of summer breeze by in the blink of an eye. In a college psychology class, I heard a theory on this phenomenon that made total sense. When you’re a child, each unit of time represents a larger portion of your experiences. When you’re ten years old, a year represents ten percent of your life experiences. When you’re fifty, a year represents two percent of your life experiences. Of course, then you factor in all the things you’ve got going on in your life now as compared to when you were younger and, presumably, possessed of more leisure time, and it’s no wonder there seems to be less and less opportunity to do the things you want as time races on.

Time. It turns an ordinary phone ring into an occasion for panic. As Cowboy Junkies noted in one of their lovely songs, telephone’s ringing, but I don’t answer it ’cause everybody knows that good news always sleeps till noon. Last week our vacation was cut short by a 4:30am phone call.

My mother-in-law had passed away.

It’s been nearly 15 years since Martha and I began to finally walk along the same Life’s path, spending more and more time together, making plans for the future, attending each other’s family events together. The stereotype is that your future in-laws are supposed to be somewhere between nuisances to be endured and personification of nightmares. Barbara and Dutch didn’t fall within the stereotype; from day one they welcomed me as part of their family even before we became engaged. And not just a perfunctory, polite welcome either, but the type of welcome that says kick off your shoes, grab a beer from the fridge, sit down next to me and tell me how your day was.

Its funny thinking now how the timeline with Martha and I “getting serious” lines up with when I first got into Magic. I hadn’t made the connection until just this moment…

I’ve been a gamer for years and years; my parents had me playing Risk by age 7, I started playing D&D in middle school (scavenging d6s from Risk and Yatzee). I first met Martha in college playing Spades, Hearts, and Bridge. She and I were nearly psychic partnering with Spades. When Magic began taking hold and playing an important part of my gaming life, it didn’t seem to be something you would want to necessarily share with your future or present in-laws. You want to highlight the hard work you put in to help provide a good home for their daughter (and eventually, their grandkids), and want to show yourself as a loving and responsible husband and father. You don’t necessarily want to share your geeky side. Yet I really had no need to be hesitant. Even as she got up in years, Barbara stayed up with the times; she enjoyed keeping up with current events, current pop culture, sports, music, and whatever else caught her fancy. She loved the Internet and its ability to feed her ravenous curiosity. And she was genuinely interested in Magic and its place in my life, and the best part is…

… she didn’t think it was a waste of time.

My impression was that, for Barbara, the important things in life were love and passion. Love for family, for your friends and those dear to you, and passion for the things that enhance your life. Magic was a passion of mine, thus she was interested in it.

A death in the family inevitably causes one’s perspective on life to change, to reflect and reevaluate where you are and where you are not. It’s a painful reminder that death is a part of life, and that you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to accomplish your hopes and dreams. I’ve got a lot of hopes and dreams, things I want to do that I have not yet done. On the other side of the equation, I’ve got a lot on my plate – I work several jobs, I’m married, raising two kids, tend to a house with a yard, etc.

I also play games, with Magic being top on the list in terms of time spent. Sometimes I wonder if that time would be put to better use?

Now though, I can think of Barbara and conclude that the time I spend on this passion and the joys I get out of it, is time very well spent. Life can’t be all about checklists, milestones, and accomplishments. “The spice of life” is a very apt phrase to remind us that we need love and passion to give life flavor, to make the trip worth the ride.

So I get to the point of this particular column, I suppose – are you taking the time to enjoy Magic? To make it not just a tool for feeling accomplished or competitive, but something that brings you passion and love? I know it’s not very “masculine” or cool to toss around those words when describing things outside of your relationship with your significant other, but Magic offers more than just cardboard and tournaments. It’s truly about Community, the relationships you make, be they only in passing or lifelong. Time and time again you read interviews with the Pros and the top priority for most of them in going is to catch up with old and new friends they’ve made around the world. Down here in the vast trenches of the non-Pro world, it’s the same thing; Magic gives you a chance to connect with other gamers of various stripes along the competitive and casual spectrum. Only instead of bumping into your friend from Japan you bump into your friend from two hours up the road. Think about how cool it is that, without Magic, you would have never met this guy or girl sitting across from you, or never become “outside the game” friends with people you’ve met at your local game shop. Some of these folks I met when they were high school kids, watched them grow up, partied with them, watched them get married, have kids of their own. They’re friends I would have never made without Magic. That’s pretty awesome when you think about it.

I think back a month ago to the memorial tournament Star City held for Richie Proffitt, and the gigantic turnout of players. Sure, many people came because the prize support from Wizards and the Magic Community was insane, but I kept meeting people — and Pete Hoefling kept telling me the same thing — folks who came to play who never go to tournaments, or who stopped going long ago, because they’re good people who wanted to support a worthy cause. These are people worth meeting, people worth connecting with, even if for just an hour slinging cardboard.

Passion. Love. Community. Friendships. It is worth the time if you make it so.

Magic is a bridge that connects the lives of strangers… and it has me wondering if Wizards is doing the right thing in trying to decentralize the Prerelease tournaments. I can understand the desire to strengthen the hand of the local game shops, to give them more tools for generating excitement for in-store Magic. But you know what? Richie’s tournament reminded me in a lot of ways of the prereleases, where you get a mix of competitive players and casual players who never play in any tournaments but prerelease flights. There were Pros there like Shaheen Soorani (congrats on that Top 8 at Nats!), and then there were store owners and parents and folks who never play in tournaments. For these most casual of players, the prereleases are their “big events” — there are tons of people from all over the region, there’s tons of excitement, side events, artists to come sign cards, playmats and prerelease foils given out—and of course, getting to see and play with the brand new cards before you can buy them! This is an event worth traveling to! But pushing them back to the local game shops… I mean, I love my local game shop, but they can’t hold but maybe 30 or so people at the most. You just can’t generate the excitement, the big event feel at the small store level (outside of big gaming centers/stores like Star City). Forcing the casual players to go to PTQs or Regionals for that experience… well, I can’t help but think you are going to lose a significant number of them who have no interest in “the Road to Worlds.” Especially since Wizards axed the Champs tournaments that held a distinct amateur appeal to casual players who felt the urge to get competitive every once in a while.

I urge Wizards to consider Richie’s tournament, to consider Passion… Love… Community… Friendships… let’s keep the Prereleases special and “big events” for the love of the game.

We’ll miss you, Barbara. Your passion for life was infectious, and I’ll carry that with me forever.

Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

Hug your friends and loved ones, don’t be bashful about telling them you love them, and don’t forget to experience the fun of playing Magic and connecting with your gamer friends. The spice of life, it’s worth the time…

starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com