Living in La-La Land.

I'm at a party in large apartment in Los Angeles. I don't know any of the guests, but they seem to be friends of mine. The venue is crowded and the windows are starting to fog up, so I can't partake of the dubious delights of Los Angeles by night. But the party is lively, everyone is mixing well - not sticking to cliqueish groups, and the host - another unknown friend - looks simply fabulous in an outfit of silver and blue lamé overalls. So, my subconcious has no taste, what's your point?

Just as I am enjoying things, mingling and chatting with new people, I happen to look out of the window and discover that I'm in a high rise building, on the 20th floor. I don't like being in tall buildings - I'm convinced I can feel them moving - and I start feeling dizzy and nervous. I round up some of my new found friends - one of whom bears a strong resemblance to Laurence Fishburn - and declare that I would much rather hang out a little closer to the ground - especially in an earthquake zone.

We leave the party and start walking around LA - now suddenly daylit - looking for a place to be. As we walk, we talk about the impossibility of affordable housing in the nicer neighborhoods of central LA - which we are now leaving. We have entered a run-down section of central Los Angeles and stop at an empty lot on a hillside. The land isn't truly empty, as it is strewn with rubble and wreckage - either a building that was torn down and never cleared, or begun but not completed. The area is dominated by concrete slabs, steel girders, sheets of plywood and lichen and moss growing on almost every surface.

The scattered masonry has created many small caves and spaces that, as we approach, we see are occupied by people. Some of them are obviously destitute, but a visible minority are fairly well dressed young adults - around college age. It seems that housing is in such short supply in this area that even healthy adults who are holding down a job have not been able to find a place to live, and have moved in with this ramshackle community.

I talk to a few of the occupants and almost everyone is polite and surprisingly upbeat about their situation. The long-term truly destitute residents don't mind the others, because they've brought some money and materials to help improve the area - like roofing over some larger spaces, buying generators to provide light at night, etc - and many of the students living there are really enjoying the whole urban-gypsy thing and, more to the point, know that they'll probably be getting out of there in less than a year.

Finally, one of my friends - the one who looks like Laurence Fishburn - who has been talking with the area residents tells me "It's okay with them for you to move in here." And I think "Whoa, nelly! My situation isn't so bad that I have to move in here! I'm just not too happy with where I'm currently at." In other words, I realize that, in the grand scale of things, my life isn't nearly as bad as it could be.

I turn down their offer of residency, but I become a regular visitor and volunteer with the site because I believe that I should do something to improve these peoples' situation.


Too Much Gaming

I'm in an Italian restaraunt. It's a nice family place, busy and bustling. I'm in the kitchen, which is housed in a narrow, but very long room, talking to the chefs. I'm interviewing them for some purpose, I think I'm collecting material for a book I'm writing. I'm chatting with one cook in particular, although our language barrier is such that we converse in a patois of French, Italian and English. Fortunately, a love of Italian food holds me in good stead, as we are at least able to discuss ingredients and recipes.

I accompany this chef into the store-room beside/behind the kitchen, and I'm sitting on the concrete floor, leaning against a wooden crate, trying to debate the choice of seasonings for a spicy tomato-artichoke sauce. Naturally, this is pushing the language barrier, but we are still enjoying ourselves. The cook is teasing me because I'm trying to tell him that I think he should add some cayenne to the recipe, while he is using something else...

There is a door to my left, half wood, half glass, kept closed by a simple yale lock. I see a line, three or four, of men walk up to the door. They are all wearing black trenchcoats, dark hats and most of them are wearing sunglasses. One part of me thinks Gamer boys in their usual duds, but another, more cautious and paranoid part of my mind is thinking - quite loudly - I had to pick an Italian restaraunt, didn't I? These guys have Trouble written all over them.

Being the coward that I am, I decide to feign a swoon as these men march in - now I can see that some of them have guns in their hands - and I hope they ignore me. My companion looks slightly startled and runs back towards the kitchen. As a slump over onto the hard ground, I realize that my acting skills are not up to snuff as the last man to enter turns towards me with a slight smile on his face, points a finger at me and says "Bang."

"Alright, better make your roll for results." says another one of the men in black. I sigh inwardly as the setting of the dream shifts and I am no aware that I'm part of a LARP that has gotten permission to play in this location.

Simultaneously, I realize that my character is doomed, as she is a normal human being shot at point-blank range. "Hold on!" I protest. "Can't I at least get a subterfuge roll to see if I've convinced him that I'm passed out?"

The player who is adjudicating agrees and we throw rock-paper-scissors. I lose, but, of course, my character doesn't know that. We restart the scene, but even though I've failed the roll, the character who knows I'm faking ignores me and the assembled thugs - who I now recognize as MIBs from the game Mage:The Ascension - troop into the kitchen and restaurant.

A few moments pass and I think it might be safe for me to leave. This concrete floor is uncomfortable and my character has things to do. Just as I'm about to get up, the character who knew I had not fainted re-enters and approaches me. I play possum, but there's no fooling him.

"There are two sides to every coin, and two destinies to every man." I tell him, knowing that this is a plot device my character has to introduce. "Choose the right path and you could be Cesar". This, of course, piques the character's interest. He's essentially a thug and the possibility of promotion is always going to catch his attention.

"Tell me more. What do you mean, Cesar?" he demands.

Another MIB character walks in, with a third close behind him. He takes one look at me and points his toy gun at me. I know, as a player, that his is the one character who knows what I am about to say and he wants to stop me, so I'm pretty certain about what is going to happen next. The player spares me a quick grin and apology - out of character - and proceeds to fill my poor little human with lead. I shrug and say "I'm not even going to try to roll that one. I'm dead." I look at the first character I had spoken to. "I guess you're never going to be Cesar, now" I smile.

The players are surprised. "What, you don't have any armor? Or a rote spell to protect you?""

I shrug again. "Nope, I'm just a normal human. Not everyone can be a mage.". I'm not upset about the death of this character, although I know it's going to upset the game-master that she died before she could spread the prophecy she was meant to share. The other players also look a little off-put, as they had automatically assumed that my character would probably survive the attack and just be cowed into doing what they wanted - whatever that might be.

I resist the urge to roll my eyes at this rather short-sighted plan and tell them again that not everyone in the game was a supernatural creature. I finally get up, dust myself off and prepare to leave to get my next character. I suggest, "Think before you shoot next time..." and walk out.




Tell me your dreams