Building Hauses

Our story begins with the day that I read a tweet from Rogie King and replied thus: 

His response, mere moments later, left me staring at the screen for 30 minutes. 

You’re enough now.

I don’t think I’ll ever be express the whole of that feeling, but to say it hit like a truck would be a criminal understatement. A few exchanges later and I was in a DM group for a meetup that I could not have been prepared for.

Fast forward a month or so to the upcoming flight. I’m sleep-deprived. I have some pads and paper and not one single business card in sight. I wrestled with that feeling for a week only to come back to, “No one asked for those. No one cares. You were invited as-is, so go as-is.”

7 hours of planes and a few tacos later found me in Portland, OR on my way to a Nike store and full of tacos from Stella’s. Rogie and Zack met me soon after getting there and we walked to Powell’s where we talked and asked questions.

I’m really doing this. I’m out here and I have no idea what’s going to happen. This is f*cking awesome.

“This week is going to be the week of ‘YES’, OK?”

My first “YES” was impulse book-buying from Powell’s right after meeting the rest of the Haus crew.

The “Within” book from Scott and the enamel pins from Darian were not bought at the bookstore, but I love them all the more for that.

Everyone was funny and upbeat. I determined I’d like whatever this week would turn into as Quentin and Chris skipped up the street.

DAY 2

I mentioned that it my birthday was the next day, so I was given eggs benedict and coffee in bed and I’ve never felt less deserving of anything all my life. I will hold Ryan responsible for this forever because he was the only person I told I even liked that particular food.

Reminder: I had not met even one of these people until the day before.

Let me tell you, there are good people in the world. They’re apparently in Portland designer meetups. I went to Multnomah Falls and took photos while avoiding certain doom with Jesse and Drew. 

Most of my time was spent listening and then asking about things. We got some Lebanese food and returned to what we called the Designer Haus for a bit of a nap only to wake up to a gentle invite downstairs where there was a birthday cake waiting for me.

Another reminder: I had not met even one of these people until the day before.

It was cake and horror movies and trivia, but beyond all of that… care. Like care. At this point, I’m already lowkey resenting the whole idea of going home. At this point, Savvy pours out a puzzle and we start working on it. Light amusement turns into intense focus and we demolish it, cursing and laughing the whole time.

It’s 2:30AM. I need to sleep.

DAY 3

This is my last day. I ask myself really painful questions and write the answers in my journal. Afterward, I ask people how they became the cool designers they are. The answers have good and funny stories. I am alive with possibilities for things. Rogie asks me if I want to go to Creative South.

Listen, Rogie. At this point, I’m going anywhere you suggest, OK?

After a while of writing and plotting things out, I head off with the boys to have good Indian food and weird ice cream with Cacao fruit jelly. It’s delicious. I’ll work up to the Pear and Bleu Cheese ice cream some other time. The lady at the counter tells me that this scoop is on her and that I’m brave. I believe her. I believe everyone.

I listen to Jim, Chris, and Ryan talk. I could listen to them talk forever. They care so much about so many things and it makes my heart happy listening to how much they care about things.

We walk about for a bit and meetup with Scott for a chat and oysters, then it’s off to the Dribble meetup with the Haus crew. It’s fun. I talk to people about the things they do, they ask me how I ended up in Portland and I tell them that Rogie told me I was enough, so I went with it. We reminisce about 90s music in the car. The driver gets in on the enjoyment. We’re a car of laughing people crossing some indeterminate amount of bridges.

How does this city have so many bridges?

I still can’t believe I’m here and doing any of this. I’m going to hate flying home, but we keep the party poppin’ for the rest of the night. I talk to Scott and he tells me that I should take more risks. Darian gives me an enamel pin and lets me know I can talk to him any time. Jody and Rogie talk for a bit and give me hugs.

Eventually everyone sleeps except for me. I write a thank you note and hope they find it the next morning.

I’m awake until the Lyft comes to carry me to the airport. I’m high on this whole experience. I miss everyone and I’m still in Portland watching the sunrise. I have eggs benedict at the airport. They have a lot less love in them, but still taste good.

I need more of this. A lot more. Thanks for telling me I am enough, Rogie. Thanks for everything.

Talking & Tabletops

It was the afternoon of Thursday, Feb 14th, and a coworker friend and I were finally able to set aside from to go and have lunch together.

During our walk to the restaurant, we started talking about Dungeons and Dragons. He asked about the games I was involved in and I regaled him with the positive sides of our ventures, keeping some details aside, before asking about his group in turn.

I was not expecting heartbreak.

He spoke of his group and how the story for him had gone stale. Other players at the table echoed the sentiment and his GM had homebrewed the campaign as his very first one. I’m in this position, so I felt that pain on a deep level.

As we crossed the street at the second block, I turned aside and asked him, “Have you talked to your GM about this?”

“Tell this exact thing to your GM. Give them a chance to make this happen; these tabletop games aren’t things the GM just hands to you. It’s a world you are all building together. Let them know how you want to help build that world and tell the stories in it. If they are a good GM, they will let you do this.”

It hadn’t crossed his mind that this was an option. We kept talking and I mentioned tales of stories that either shone brightly or burned out based on how often the players and the GM spoke to each other openly and honestly with their feelings about the game. Being friends in general opens up a lot of dialog here, but for a game to be successful, there must be dialog.

He nodded his understanding and we rounded a corner. He started to describe what he hoped for in the game – more puzzles, more things to be curious about, means to step off of the beaten path.

I looked at him and said, “Tell this exact thing to your GM. Give them a chance to make this happen; these tabletop games aren’t things the GM just hands to you. It’s a world you are all building together. Let them know how you want to help build that world and tell the stories in it. If they are a good GM, they will let you do this.”

We talked through lunch and back to the office about different ways he could discuss concerns with the GM and I believe that we parted ways with him feeling a lot better about the future of his campaign as a player. I then turned my mind toward the campaigns I’m in as a player.

I was not expecting further heartbreak, but heartbreak is rude and does not wait for convenient moments to grab your attention.

As a player in a number of games that are suffering in one way or another on many things that aren’t being said, I cannot emphasize that importance of communication enough. Learn to articulate wants or needs and practice as often as you can. Your games can only be better for it and will suffer without it.

A Selfish Thought

It is a very real thing on a daily that I walk into places seeing where I could be helpful or useful because I know what I can do, but then I think “to what end”? It doesn’t grow me, it doesn’t help people that I believe actually need it. In short, it is not a challenge worthy of me, my time, or my talent. Moreover, my work and most of my life happen in predominantly non-POC and non-black spaces, so it leaves me feeling “meh” ALL THE TIME.

However, now I’m part of this group of POC who want to build things and understands and cares about PoC period and isn’t trying to throw them under the bus, I’m down for the cause, but I’m also having to dig into myself and start good work habits again.. I was tired for a long time trying to make things for people who couldn’t see me and I’m awakening to helping people make things that both see me and care about me. It’s hard, but it’s good, too.

I said this today and on many levels I mean it. Most of my time these days is spent walking the valley between me as a person and me to the world as a person and in there, I find that everything is tiring.

Writing paragraphs explaining why racism in games isn’t necessary is tiring. Explaining why it is offensive for twitter or facebook to ban people who say “Men are trash” but not Nazis is tiring.

However, I’m finding more energy with my tribe every day and I’m in a place where I now have work that I am excited to do, but I’m not accustomed to being that giving with my energy or my time except in rare occasions these days.

That said, it’s a nice feeling to have and I hope to have more to share about it.

When Good People Are Silent

Trigger Warning // Racism

I have some people in a Facebook group who I befriended over D&D. This was just after the current POTUS was elected. We have all met and eaten together and exchanged gifts and so on. We all get along relatively well and have a lot of jokes we pass around.

Our jokes are pretty sarcastic and somewhat dark. However, on the subject in group chat of the POTUS, I had some rather strong sentiments. 

A reminder of what I look like.

I was asked via direct message to kindly leave those sentiments out of the group chat out of concern for people feeling attacked or alienated for the views they have since one of our group members was a supporter of 45.

In terms of the group dynamic, I was the only black guy in the group. Everyone else is white. This will make zero sense to you without that knowledge.

I took the concern to heart and decided that, as this person was otherwise kind and decent, I could afford to keep those sentiments aside. Thinking it through, it makes some sense as not heeding the advice would only lead me to becoming the Angry Black Guy ™.

However, this extended to other areas as well. As I mentioned before, we all share in rather dark humor. Things like:

What do Jews from the Holocaust and Stan Lee have in common?… They’re all dead.

FB Group Chat

The feelings on memes like this got stowed away, too. I would just ignore the notification and do something else for a few hours. There was the plaintive message of “WTF dude”, but nothing more from it. Then I saw this meme come in:

That is the closest I have had to an out-of-body experience in a long time. The pure racism of the meme. The fact that it was considered funny. That it was posted to the group that I was in without thought. It left me breathless. I could only gather my thoughts to type “Can we all agree to never post anything like this ever again?”

This is where we expect the story to include a dialog about how everyone of these people I had known would come together and say, “Whew. OK. So let’s talk this out” and dialog would happen as we’re all friends.

Well, Reader, I regret to inform you that this did not happen.

Discomfort

Instead, there was applause for the meme and how funny it was. I just left at that point. Some noticed moments later, some noticed a few minutes after that. I received a direct message from the person who had asked me to not make people uncomfortable so long ago and we talked a bit. She asked how she could fix it and I told her the truth.

They would not listen. They would see her complaining as something she was only doing because of me being offended. Not because the joke was awful. In addition, they would see me

In other words, no one would silence themselves for me.

The fact is, these DMs I got were only because my leaving made people uncomfortable and they had to confront that in my leaving. I told her this. I told her they would be defensive as I hit the block button on a few accounts. I told her they would ask a bunch of questions about why I hadn’t said anything until now without knowing that my overall silence was my gift to them per her request for a whole year.

Which is to say: this was always there, but no one said anything until today when I finally had enough. Had I gotten DMs around this behavior? Plenty. I still have them.

Loneliness

I’ve always enjoyed math. Processing it, teaching it, working through a problem, just the whole process is delightful. Math always works and it does not lie unless you do.

When I look at the statistics, there were about 10 people in the group. 5 were speaking that day. 1 posted the meme. 1 defended the poster. 2 friends of 10 years did not defend me until I had left the group because they are simply not confrontational people did not want to risk shaking things up in the circle.

So using those 5 that were speaking:

  • People for the meme: 40%
  • People against the meme: 20%
  • Independent party votes: 40%

Put another way, that could have easily been 60%… but it wasn’t. Yeah, things were said, but said because I left and didn’t let the moment pass unmarked.

So I can leave and assure others and myself that nothing will happen. No one will miss me. Everyone likes me, but no one will miss me. No one will think about what was said and amend it or apologize because it isn’t wrong to them.

It is freeing and terribly lonely to be so starkly aware of those facts, but I’m so well-practiced the feelings just pass. I know their names and their faces and their favorite colors.

The poster of the meme tried to reach out, realized they couldn’t, and then passed a message along that they wanted to talk. They wanted an explanation about why I left. About why I didn’t say anything beforehand. About why I didn’t comment on someone else’s comment before this moment.

My response: “Noted.”

This is how racism flourishes.

What explanation would matter, anyway?

  • “I was asked not to. Literally asked in a DM.”
  • “Were the angry faces not a clue?”
  • “What about the time we talked about how a meme you posted bothered me and you said, ‘That’s just my type of humor, ya know.’?”

Additional note: I don’t owe people explanations for my feelings and especially when you only care enough to just try to explain why that meme shouldn’t offend me rather than trying to understand why it did and not picking something else – anything else – that would have been just as funny.

I wish I could be angrier about this somehow. I wish I could even be sad. Instead, I’m staring at this event like it is a reading of a well-work book with my own notes all over the margins.

Instead, I’m out here and not in the group – where everyone likes me I guess – feeling like every bone is broken and every sleeping nerve woke up at once and knowing that none of it matters enough for people to even consider adjusting their behavior.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

― Edmund Burke

I’d add: or ask other good men to do the same.

What’s Your ‘Game Name’ Now?

I am Marquis, Unready and Prepared, Ruler of the Borderland, Heir to Furious Joy, Servant that received the Son’s Inheritance, Wielder of the Fiery Scroll, Mother in his kindness, King in his wrath, He who walks upon the night tide, Witness to truth and speaker of the same, Scorned Lover, Foe to Darkness, Sipper of Tea, Follower of the Way, Singer of strange songs, Dancer of unheard rhythms, Supported by none, Supporter of many, Son of the day, Father to sons unnamed, Lover of warmth, light, and flame, First of his name.

This post brought to you by a writing prompt series by Tara-Nicholle Nelson.