Sunday, March 29 2020

video games, motorcycles, and bacon (the french way)

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope you're having a relaxing Sunday thus far. To accommodate sleeping in, a lengthy brunch, and their father's stubborn daily journaling habit, my family has decided to attend the... glances at clock... 1 PM service today. Of course, when you watch church on YouTube, church is whenever you want it to be.

I'm grateful that our church was able to adapt to live streaming so quickly. Going from occasionally publishing videos to publishing a live video every week is not an easy thing to do, and I applaud the effort. I'd add video editors to the ranks of doctors, nurses, and grocery store workers, who have all shown to be invaluable heroes during this pandemic.

Sip. I had a great day yesterday. We had a slow start to the morning. Marissa and I stayed up too late the day before watching episodes of Tiger King. The show had a strong start - the first two episodes led me and Marissa to some interesting discussions. But the show is starting to give us diminishing returns.

"I think this is a classic case of a flash in the pan Netflix documentary that we might have enjoyed if it weren't so overhyped," I said. "After all the things people were telling me, I was expecting it to get really weird. Like insanely weird."

"Yeah," agreed Marissa. "And now at this point it's just kind of sad. I hate thinking about how the animals got wrapped up with all these toxic people. And plus, I think it's only popular because everyone is home and there's nothing to do."

"Yes," I nodded. "It was great timing for a little docuseries like this."

After sharing a French omelette, Rodney and I hung out on the couch in the living room. We heard a shuffling on the front porch. Peaking my head out the window, I saw two yellow Xbox game sized envelopes sitting on our front step. "Hey dude, I think the mail is here," I said to Rodney, acting surprised. "Do you think are new games arrived in the mail?"

Rodney's face lit up, and he leapt to his feet to run over to the door. We retrieved the envelops from the front step and ran them over to the table. Having plenty of fond memories of opening new games in the mail, I wanted to make sure Rodney could savor the feeling. We sat down at the table, slowly peeling open the envelopes. Rodney unsleeved the games, excitedly pulling them out, studying the front cover.

"Dude, do you want to go play them?" I asked.

"YEAHHHHHHH," yelled Rodney, running into the kitchen.

"Is it OK if I get started on painting?" asked Marissa while enjoying her coffee.

"Oh definitely," I replied. "We're probably going to be in the basement for a while. I think he'll be good. He dude, do you have to go potty?"

"NO. No potty. I wanna play GAMES," yelled Rodney.

"See? Doesn't even have time to potty," I said, following Rodney downstairs.

Rodney and I first played the much anticipated motorcycle game. It was perfect - no frills, no gimmicks, no distractions. You just play as some guy riding a motorcycle around a hilly desert. There were little buildings, towns, and even some NPC's driving trucks and cars slowly down the road. The game was practically made for Rodney.

Rodney sat on my lap, completely infatuated with the game. But he had a hard time understanding the controls. He seemed to think that it was necessary to hold the right thumbstick in one direction, which sent the camera spinning in a continuous circle. "I don't know how you drive like that, dude, the camera doesn't need to move," I said, giving my eyes a break from the screen and turning to my twitter feed.

"Dada, can we play Spider-Man game now?" asked Rodney.

"Sure dude!" I said, happily swapping out the disks. The Spider-Man game we got was Shattered Dimensions, an old favorite from my original collection. The game holds up - beautiful art, great storyline, and fun to play through even after you've beaten it. The first level took me and Rodney to the jungle where we were being chased by the notorious Kraven.

I handed Rodney the controller. He spent five minutes leaping into the same cavern and dying, but at least the game was classy about it, sparing us of any gratuitous you died cut scenes. The game would just briefly fade to red, then transport Spider-man back to the ledge from which he fell. Of course, Rodney would immediately leap off again.

"I like playing video games with Rodney, but it can get a little demoralizing," I said to Marissa.

"What do you mean?" she replied.

"He wants to play, but he's nowhere close to being able to understand the games. So usually when I hand him the controller, it just means I have to keep him interested while Kraven kicks spider-man's ass for thirty minutes straight." Marissa laughed.

"I feel like I've watched Spider-Man die 10,000 times today. It's exhausting!" I added.

"How is the motorcycle game?" asked Marissa.

"It's pretty sweet. Literally just driving motorcycles around," I replied. "But Rodney usually gets his wheel wedged between rocks, and being too stubborn to let me help, he just revs the engine or spins the camera in circles until I hit the reset button without him knowing."

Rodney and I headed upstairs for some leftovers. The new video games had revved him up, so I decided to play some Mister Rogers to help him wind down. The theme song palpably sapped the entire house of boyish energy, and soon Rodney was sitting contently on the couch primed for a nap.

While Rodney slept, Marissa continued painting and I caught up on some YouTube videos. I'm grateful that all my favorite YouTube chef's are stepping up and showing how to adapt to cooking in pandemic life. Stephan's channel feawtured an interesting recipe involving bacon, onions, and potatoes. I moved to the kitchen to get started.

One interesting thing I've noticed about French cooking is that, from what I can tell, they don't like to fry bacon. Following the instructions, I cooked it in the bottom of a Dutch oven just long enough to render out some fat and take on a little bit of color. Immediately after, I added diced onion. The onion soaked up the remaining fat, and the bacon continued to sweat without taking on any texture.

I didn't think it would work out. But like a strange magic trick, what was once cheap frozen packaged bacon was transformed into sweet, fragrant pork. I added quartered potatoes and chicken broth, then left the pot in the oven while it cooked down. I finished it under the broiler.

"I saw some of the video while you were watching this," said Marissa. "And I didn't think it would turn out this good."

"Yeah I'm right there with you," I replied. "I was very doubtful that sweating cheap bacon with onions could turn out this good. But Stephan strikes again."

After putting Rodney to bed, I took a power nap, finally sleeping off the Tiger King grogginess. After waking, I joined Marissa downstairs while she finished up in the studio, biding my time by driving a motorcycle around the desert.

That's my time for today. Looks like I'm late for church. Thanks for stopping by this morning. I hope you have a great day today.