My right leg is still sore

Went out to Union Square to meet up with an old friend. It was the first time in a while that I’ve gotten out of the house, and just my luck, it’s extremely humid. So we did what city kids do: take shelter inside air conditioning. Our refuges were Whole Foods and Barnes and Nobles, where we looked at mysteriously unpriced chocolate that was not listed in their inventory, picked out a dozen travel guides to Europe, and then proceeded to read none of them while we caught up with one another.

Sufficiently cooled and increasingly hungry, we sallied forth and found that the weather had gotten better and sunnier. We went into the farmer’s market and were tempted by vegetable turnovers, but settled on focaccia. She picked out something with mushrooms and a strange cheese, I took the more pizza-esque tomato/basil/pepper/garlic/mozzarella. Eating them on a bench in the park was a delicious end to our reunion.

We went our separate ways, hers the ride back and mine the ride forth. My Rock Band itch had been exacerbated by talking to Jason, not to mention all those Youtube videos, and so I determinedly wanted to find someplace to play it that was not Neutral Ground and their $3 fee (god knows how long that actually gets you). Most Best Buys and Circuit Cities I had gone to either had broken foot pedals, non-working units, or heinously, working units that were not allowed to be turned on. So I went to the one place I knew once had a working set: the Circuit City next to the Best Buy on 5th Avenue.

Now I don’t know who runs this place but they are obviously a fan of rhythm-based gaming. When Shelly, Sally, Mike, Simon and I went there last winter break, they had a positively orgasmic demo setup. There were three gaming stations, separated from each other by a 3-walled partition. Imagine a triangle; the partition’s walls would extend from the points of those triangles towards the center. Two stations were for Guitar Hero 3, and one was for Rock Band, which was complete with a mic, guitar and drums, all in perfect working order. Each station had huge LCD TVs, and they were in full display of the window looking out to the sidewalk, with extra TVs facing the street so that passerbys could see what we were doing.

On my trip to this paragon of gaming exhibitionism, which could only get more awesome if we were on a raised platform or there were bleachers for spectators, I found that there were now three Rock Band stations, one for each system. The PS3 only had a working drum set, the 360 only had a working guitar, but the Wii version (perhaps because no one had had time to break the instruments yet) had a full complement minus a second guitar.

Mmm. Drumming. There was a fairly regular stream of people floating in and out of the store that wanted to try their hand at the guitar or drum, but in the corner were a group of loiterers like myself who were drumming beasts. It’s always awe-inspiring to see someone nail a song your mind can’t even comprehend. Of course it’s also a little scary to watch someone whose drumming style does not involve hitting the drums with the points of the sticks, but instead hitting the entire length of the drum pad with the flat end of the stick. This is not some full contact sport, dude. The drums are loud enough, you don’t need to add in the constant cracking of wood on hard plastic.

After I left and started making my way back to the train station, I discovered that a second Neutral Ground opened up across the street from where I interned at for a couple years. Now the original Neutral Ground was a nice gaming store: there was a big selection of games, miniatures and collectibles, and there was a large open gaming area where collectible card game players would hang out before and after the frequent tournaments held there. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but you came there for a specific and undoubtedly dorky reason, and it would never disapopint.

This new store was more of an annex than an actual Neutral Ground. It had much less stock, because there wasn’t a whole lot that could fit into what was essentially an alleyway between two buildings. The back of the store definitely fit that bill; where the old Neutral Ground had a dozen long tables in their brightly lit gaming area, I could count the number of both tables and light fixtures here on a single hand. It was like accidentally stepping into a shady illegal poker game between two rival gangs, since a crowd would form at the head of the table (it was the only place with space for spectators) preventing you from seeing what was going on in the sparsely lit nook all the noise was coming from.

I didn’t want to stick around to witness the Yu-Gi-Oh-tastic geekery that was wrapping up in the gaming area, so I quickly inquired as to whether they had the out-of-print game Bang! (no they didn’t, and I was actually the third person that day who asked) and then hopped on the train back home.

My last stop was at the post office, where I picked up the work visa for my trip this coming weekend. With it becoming more real as every day passes, especially with the knowledge that I should have already been there for a week, I am getting quite excited. We’ve been slowly packing and setting things aside for the trip, and I have to remember to put my multitools in my checked luggage lest they be put up on Ebay. I’ve loaded up my DS with games, put music on my iPod, and am putting addresses on file to send post cards to. My top concern though? Finding my fucking camera charger so that I can put up pictures with my posts XD .

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