Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bill Gates Touched My Butt!

Now that you know the end of the story, here are the preliminaries:
Somehow Shauna got a job at Bungie, which, as the roommates soon learned, is the company that makes Halo (our non-gaming tendencies have recently done a 180 since the discovery of this semi-subculture that is opposite of everything we know... it's like Aladdin discovering the secret cave: we realize what a total jackpot it is, but we know we're not really supposed to touch anything). As some may know, Halo got released at 12:01 am, September 25. This major event, years in the making, required proper buildup.
So this is how we spent 12 hours on Sunday at the company barbecue in Bellevue. Technically hired to babysit the kids and keep order amongst the nerd proteges, we ended up schmoozing with the vast spectrum of employees and their wives: from Claw, the 300 pound security guard and his hippy wife Kate, who owns "Hot Chicks" hair chopstick co., to Harold the CEO and his delightfully down to earth and fake-chested wife who shared stories of when Channing Tatum told her she was hot (jealousy doesn't even begin to describe it). Things got good as Shauna forcefully encouraged her coworkers to start drinking (many of whom hadn't seen the light of day for a good nine months.... these games don't perfect themselves, you know), but the highlight was when the roommates got coerced into "babysitting" two actors from LA who were up as Bungie guests. The most awkward setup of our lives went like this:
"Hey, you guys are from Washington, right? Go tell them some facts about Washington."
One of them apparently voiced a character in Halo, the other was as unqualified to be there as we were, and after bonding over how bizarre our introduction was, we realized they were "our kind of weird" and we were inseparable, taking the kids' bouncy castle by storm and carefully maneuvering conversations away from video games.

The next night was Bungie's Halo Launch Party. Since Bungie's location is technically a secret, the event was invite only, but thanks to Shauna, we found our way in via newfound connections. The place was posh, the shots flowed like wine, and everyone was buzzing with Halo-ticipation. One room was chock-full of pre-release gamers: playing Halo 3 before anyone else on the West Coast? Priceless! They had made mini-movies with game clips, interviews, and other footage that I considered obscure-- until the room would erupt with joyful, drunk laughter at one of the jokes, or cheer rabidly when certain Master Chief/Cortana scenes flashed. Watching with Voiceover Chris, we were forced to realize that our worlds had been flipped for the night: we were the outsiders. There was an entire in-group that we had no idea existed, we loved it.
I'm not normally a pushy person, but after a vodka tonic and an unrealized dream, I will throw bows through any crowd and, prepped with my opening line, I shoved my way up to Bill Gates, forced him to make eye contact, and asked loudly, "BILL, did you know there's a place in Sarajevo called Club Bill Gates that sells pancakes and pizza and uses a picture of your face from 20 years ago as their logo and also your signature on their signage?"

And delightful little Aspergers-fighting Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, said no, he was unaware of such a place.

"And I stole a bunch of their cards so I could give you one but guess what, I totally forgot it!"
And Bill Gates told me to mail it to him.

"Copywrite infringement, Bill! Just telling you to watch out!"
And get this-- the crowd kind of laughed and I segued into our next roommate request:

"So can I get a picture with you and my roommates for our Christmas card?"
He chuckled, we got into picture formation, and that is when BILL GATES TOUCHED MY BUTT, thus bringing my entire existence into one blissful culmination and effectively making the rest of my life one massive downhill slide from here on out. I wasn't the first and I definitely wasn't the last, but the point is, Bill's hand was resting on my left butt cheek. Enough said.
The night continued with party busses to the Game Stops and Best Buys, where lines of junior high boys with long hair and trench coats waited eagerly for 12:01 am. The actors and the roomies hopped off the bus and signed autographs (I singlehandedly caused the majority of Eastside Halo fans' memorabilia to plummet in value, but dammit, when else will I be able to sign dozens of autographs and play PR agent for an aspiring voice-over actor? When, I ask you?).

In sum, it was the weirdest and best weekend ever. Aye aye, Bungie, aye aye.

PS: Here's the Bungie article from Time magazine a few weeks ago, an article which didn't mean a thing to me until we met the people it talks about (casually discussing with the Flintstones jingle writer over how Marlo could break into the jingle-writing world, for example) and experienced the inner Bungie stratum. It didn't mean a thing until we realized that for a lot of people it is a big freakin' deal. And now we have become those people.

"This is intense..."

Is it weird that this article makes me a little homesick?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Happy Birfday, Boo!

Last weekend was meant to be a celebration of all things Schlosser: the 5 roomies all together at last, welcoming the first "mid-twenties transition" amongst us, blatantly and pointedly ignoring the looming figure of Father Time with a well-poured drink, a non-Europop song or two, and a few misplaced dance maneuvers. All of the above happened, none of them in the context we'd pictured. The timeline went as follows:

8 pm: one mattress careens through the front window, shatters the ancient glass and slices Aimee's right shoulder open.
9 pm: Aimee, Marlo and I are situated in Swedish' ER. People watching.
10 pm: the non-Europop songs begin (plus). They are on the Fashion Rocks Awards (minus). They are sung by Fergie (big minus).
10:27 pm: the misplaced dance maneuvers begin. They begin with Fergie and end with the hugely overweight woman we are sharing the ER with who has been violently screaming for 45 minutes that her tarantulas are eating her legs and that amputation is imminent. The social worker attempts to convince her otherwise. Fails. Woman calms down long enough to perform a complicated body roll upon observation of Fergie. We are stunned.
10:59 pm: another, much smaller but equally as crazy, woman appears carrying what may be the world's most well-stocked bag of salted goods. Places Doritos in front of her, crackers next to her, and Pringles in her lap. Eats Pringle after Pringle (she'd popped and couldn't, in fact, stop) until she began to lose track of where she had placed all of them and they began to accumulate on the floor below her as well as wedging themselves between her thighs. At this point realized we had spent much of our evening staring at the thighs and bosoms of fellow ER guests (visitors? victims? sociopaths?) and turned a newfound intensity of focus back to the TV.
11:05 pm: Aimee gets stitches to the sounds of tarantula woman, who had ostensibly been granted her one phone call, screaming that the hospital was going to kill her. At that point, I am fairly convinced that they gladly would have, especially considering the fact that a nurse, upon our departure, rolled her eyes in Madame Arachnid's direction and shrugged, "She's a regular." Good god. You couldn't pay me enough.

So we had, blessedly, escaped massive blood loss and gotten our dose of fluffy pop music and awkward dance moves, which is about all you can ask for in your average Friday night, I suppose.
You may be wondering about the well-poured drinks... we found them, in the form of the Silver Bullet, surrounding our two drunk roommates who had sprawled out in the living room with a case of Coors Light to wait for our return. God Bless the Rockies.

Happy Belated Birthday Schlossmo, if there is a sign that the universe loves you and wants you to be happy, it has got to be in the fact that for your big 2-4, it got you the cleanest glass cut Swedish has ever seen! Love you.

(ps. this event hit us a bit harder than it otherwise would have because it forced us to realize that it could have happened to ANY of us, which is fine, except that not all of us have medical insurance and stitches don't run cheap. Which is why I was thrilled a few days later to hear about this:

Friday, September 07, 2007

Reverse Culture Schlock

Returning home after a year in Europe was no great shock to the system at first. Using a dishwasher and a dryer again were everything I'd dreamed of, but not much more. Seeing family and friends was great, but no better than it would have been had they been teleported into Belfast. I was overtly grateful for the home and city I live in after experiencing places like Sarajevo and the Shankill, but I wasn't too upside down about the whole transition.

A couple of times I was taken aback over my obvious return to the States took me by surprise. As I was driving again for the first time, struggling mightily over which side of the road to be on and when, and I rounded a corner only to be greeted boldly by a massive Chevy barreling down the street. Stunned at its size, at its noise, and its exhaust, as "Like a Rock" echoed through my head, I felt refreshed disgust for America's glorification of unnecessary waste.

But while I am deeply irritated by so much of the thoughtlessness that has gone into crafting Americana, I also don't enjoy the people who bring up their own irritation all the time. For example, as my mom and I were watching tv the other night (me with a book in hand for commercial breaks, attempting to mitigate in some small way the mush that Sunday nights spent absorbed in Rock of Love turn my brain into) and she belted out a loud grunt that indicated her disgust at an ad. "Ugh. How American was that commercial?" she begged. "Everything has to be quickquickquick." Criticizing Uncle Sam is a fairly new idea for my mom. Close cultural examinations were never par for the dinner table course. Bosnia changed all that, and now the house has become a veritable land mine of critiques: "AH! Why so many napkins? No one else needs napkins, why do we need 30 per meal? The napkins become an innocent microcosm of the entirety of a flawed and self-absorbed American system.

But I hope to God that there are no good guys and bad guys, that there are only differing levels if ignorance and interest. I don't want to hate that guy in the Hummer, but I do. Wish I didn't despise the person who brags about having no clue about geography, but I do. And I'm not particularly keen on judging people who probably just need a little grace, because God knows I do, and am grateful when I receive it.

Piecing It Together

September arrived, the autumnal closure to a torpedo summer of traveling, tasting, experiencing and changing. I've exchanged trains for my old car, hostel beds for my queen that still holds my self-shaped divot acquired through years of sleeping in. No more guessing at the local cuisine. No more wondering where we'll sleep tomorrow night, what we'll see this week. Home is home, and Seattle is back.

My house is actually becoming a home, a century-old construct that welcomes us with its bright red door (red doors mean luck, a friend tells me with a grin that encompasses every hope that a 20-something grad clings to in a world that seems scarily new), ancient hardwood and a dining room (a dining room! a room in which to dine!) seeping personality from every molded corner. What currently looks like a refugee camp, a cardboard box-covered living room and a kitchen filled with donations from every pot and pan owner in what appears to be the tri-state area, is slowly making its way into a comfortable place for five girls to call home and not be mortally embarrassed to bring friends and potential husbands over to visit.

Side note on the husband topic, which is a total joke because the girls in 2217 all tie for "Least Likely to Find A Guy to Jump on That Grenade": my grandpa, who thinks he knows just about everything about everything, informed me that it was a bad idea to sign a lease with four other girls for the following reason: one of us is going to get married and flee the state and leave the rest of us in the lurch. If only he knew. If only.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what home means. I am back to the place I do consider one of my homes, but cities are never the same! I am back to discovering cafes and being served by sleeve-tattooed baristas of indeterminate gender, back to the grubby, 'we're all in this together' feel of the underground music scene, back to the catch in your throat bliss of an unexpected Space Needle sighting. Call me cheesy. I like living like a tourist in my own city. It prevents apathy.

What a strange thing it is, to create a life from what feels like scratch! I am transported back to senior year of high school, when the first half of the year seemed to be spent condensing my entire being onto a sheet of paper and convincing institutions of higher education that I was worth their time. Job applications are a similarly bizarre sense of attempting to prove my worth through a list of accomplishments, a list which appears strangely short when I consider what a full life I've led for 23 years (maybe less than that. I didn't accomplish much when I was a baby, and age 15 was a similarly unproductive era, unless you count "passing notes between classes" a marketable skill). There doesn't seem to be a way to include the important things in my life on a piece of paper, things like: how a weekend in Bosnia radically changed my worldview, how my breakup history has prepared me for corporate America, how Belfast stole my heart for good, how I tend to fall over without my best friends nearby, and how great it was to spend elementary school doing Y Indian Princesses with my dad. Things that make me me don't necessarily look good on a resume.

So I am back to square one, embellishing my brief list of accomplishments so potential employers will have no choice but to beg me to grace them with my presence. It's like compiling a list of things that someone else has done. The job search itself can be absurdly tedious. Staring online at job postings can only last for so long; as it is one of the most morale-draining exercises ever discovered by mankind. Soon every one of your interests becomes something you despise. I thought I wanted to speak Spanish, work with refugees, tutor kids and write about all of it, until the unfailingly prosaic job descriptions started to make me doubt my own middle name. Soon I got to the point where I really just wanted someone to pay me to stay in bed.

But putting a little life together is the next adventure, and for as badly as I want to throw a dart at a map and hop back onto a plane bound for a random locale, coming back to Seattle has been wonderful and I'm a happy girl! I am still trying to sort through everything I saw, smelled and tasted over the summer and will write more on that later...