Sunday, August 30 2020

the cdc, mario shaming, and my sfincione speed run

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. How is your Sunday going so far? Our clan slept in today. Rodney and I were first to emerge from Sunday morning stasis. He joined me in the kitchen, grabbing a seat on the counter while I made breakfast.

"This is Canadian bacon," I said, holding out the pale little disc of meat for him to inspect.

"Cinandianan," he said, attempting to repeat it back to me. Close enough.

I continued to think aloud. "I think we're going to brown some of it in a skillet, then throw it onto some toast with a fried egg. Oh, and of course we're going to need some cheese."

"Dada," said Rodney interrupting me. "Can I try some of this?" He held up a ramiken of cinnamon sugar left out from breakfast the day before.

"No you cannot," I said sternly.

"Just a little bit?" he pleaded.

"Not unless you want to lose your counter buddy privileges," I laughed. I'm pretty sure Rodney snuck a finger tip anyway while I was preoccupied with frying an egg.

counter buddy

My breakfast cooking counter buddy.

Marissa joined us at the breakfast table, and after warming up our brains with some hot breakfast and fresh coffee, she broached a political subject.

"Did you hear about the new CDC guidelines?" she asked, shifting baby Miles to her other arm. "All of the sudden they're saying that asymptomatic people don't need to get tested."

"What?" I scoffed through a mouth full of eggs.

"It doesn't make sense, right?" she added. "You would think they would want to track the disease and let people know when they need to be extra careful. I think they got so much crap for it that they're rolling it back."

"That's a bummer," I said. Later in the morning I caught up on my own reading on the rule change. Some think it's to cover up the fact that our testing capacity is still falling behind. Some think it's just to make Trump look better. Whatever the reason, it's a crushing disappointment. The CDC has been pretty much the only source we've trusted throughout this whole thing, and even when their recommendations changed, they've done a pretty good job accompanying the changes with common sense reasoning. Now who do we listen to?

This morning I'm feeling a flare up of coronavirus anger. I'm feeling stranded. I feel stuck. I just want all of this to end.

Sip. When times our tough, I turn to video games. We've been playing a lot of Super Mario this weekend. Rodney, Marissa and I sit on the couch together in the studio, and even though we play single player mode, Rodney is perfectly happy to hold a vestigial second controller, pretending to play along with us. I've long since beaten Lemmy's Castle and have just about wrapped up the forest of illusion. Marissa has started her own game, and she's still admirably grinding it out against the first three levels.

After putting Rodney to bed, I rejoined her on the couch. She jumped for a platform, missing by a hair, guiding Mario to an unceremonious death off screen.

"I know I'm bad," she said. "But I enjoy it."

"Hey," I replied. "I'm the last one who should be Mario-shaming. That's the problem with really sacred games like Super Mario - it's impossible to play it for the first time without someone giving you crap about how bad you are."

I never had a Super Nintendo growing up, but my friend who lived next door did. And he was the type of kid who would wait in line for hours to pick up a game the day it was released. Three days later, he'd already have the game beaten and mastered, and he couldn't stand to watch me struggle with it for five minutes without taking the controller away.

College was no different. I practically had to play through Super Mario for the Wii in secret for fear of being ridiculed. My dorm room door closed and locked, as if I were doing something more shameful than just playing my first solo Mario campaign.

Marissa was still battling the same platform. She sighed, watching Yoshi sail off the edge of nothingness, Mario following close behind.

"The controls are kind of difficult too," I said. "It's hard to keep the sprint button held down while - "

Marissa accidentally hit a hint box, flashing a tip on the screen. Hold UP to throw a shell upwards.

"Wait - you can throw a shell up?" Marissa and I began to laugh. "See, I proved my own point. Apparently I don't even know all the controls."

In this age, it's even easier to convince yourself you suck at any game. Just go on YouTube, and query for your favorite childhood game with the phrase "speed run", and you can help yourself to footage of a greasy sixteen year old kid besting your crowning lifetime achievement in only a few minutes.

This weekend, the weather has been so beautiful that we couldn't spend all of it cloistered in the basement with our Super Nintendo even if we tried. Yesterday after a nap, I joined Marissa out on the deck with a beer and a cigar. Rodney, still relegated to his daily afternoon quiet time, flashed me a thumbs up from his bedroom window.

"I don't want to get up, but I have to make the pizza," I said stretching.

"Take your time," said Marissa. "We can eat late today."

Staring at the clock on my phone screen holding the wet nub of a cigar, I watched the minutes slip away. Could I make a pizza in 45 minutes? 40 minutes? 35 minutes? Finally, with a groan, I rose up from my chair and hit the kitchen, performing my own kind of Sicilian pizza speed run. The blender whirred. My knife clacked against the wood cutting board. The sink faucet hissed. Two yellow diced onions crackled in hot oil at the bottom of my dutch oven. Dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings. I slid the raw pizza into the oven with five minutes to spare, and I even cleaned the kitchen behind me. I may be a complete idiot when it comes to playing Super Mario, but at least I can throw together a pizza like nobody's business.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.