Albany Excursion 2003
Michael Ubaldi, October 22, 2003.
Two round trips to Albany are on the record books. For lack of chronology, I'll present in bullet form:
Since I last saw Ed, however, he'd bought Microsoft's XBox. He also happens to own two games that, white-knuckled action overloads as they may be, were outstanding. The first is MechAssault. Transforming robots have fascinated me since the old days of Robotech, and I was a fan of the Battletech board and roleplaying games. Thirty-foot-tall, humanoid armored behemoths crashing through imaginary, evacuated cities to tear eachother apart has a certain carthartic appeal to it - not unlike a futuristic, virtual urban rugby. We played cooperatively the whole time, and enjoyed every minute of it.
The second game is called Halo. Now, Sergeant Stryker had mentioned "Halo" and "Projector" in the same sentence some time ago. I thought Halo was another Rainbow Six; those sorts of games are too realistic and a little dry to me. But Halo is, in fact, a creation of the Bungie game developers, authors of the classic sci-fi shoot-em-up Marathon 2: Durandal, the best game I never owned (but played as much as I could). How do I explain the appeal of playing a cybernetic space marine battling idiosyncratic, stylish, goofy-but-deadly aliens with marine comrades, all manner of strategic posers and equipment/vehicle piloting potential? It's a matter of taste, I think; I'll just let that last sentence stand alone. In any case, it'd be a wonderful time to play one player; teaming up with Ed for a few hours was an over-the-top good time - and one played well into the wee hours of Sunday.
It was a blast. On the trip home, a stop at McDonald's afforded me a couple of game pieces from their annual Monopoly sweepstakes. What will Baltic and Mediterranean Avenue win you? An XBox. I have Baltic. And a logistical-cum-ethical debate raging inside my head on the subject of XBox acquisition. I'm busy enough outside of work, happily, to fairly well settle this on the side of leaving the console fun to dedicated gamers like Ed.
My main course will probably be considered a watershed event in my culinary diary. Growing up, my household was not a place for seafood. My father's father was a butcher, so dinner came straight from the store; and my mother's mother's dislike for consuming creatures from the deep prevented them - much to my grandfather's quiet dismay - from ending up on the dinner table. Neither of my parents, therefore, is either accustomed to cooking it (my mother occasionally prepares fresh fish, but only occasionally) or eating it (given a choice, Dad will go for steak any day of the week.) Ocean dishes are, in all of cooking, the most difficult to which one can grow accustomed if a childhood acclamation is lacking. (And I admit that homogenized fishsticks, despised by fishermen and other learned palates but my favorite, don't count. With these, it's impossible to even tell brands apart.)
I'll probably be a more difficult case, though not an impossible one. Two years ago, I tore apart a boiled lobster - trust me, it's a Herculean challenge for a landlubber - and ate the little pockets of gooey, green mush that, at an earlier point in the lobster's existence, would have been considered its nervous system. Visiting my sister and brother-in-law this April, I ate a crab cake for the first time; delicious, though the insubstantial nature of the meat was puzzling to both my mouth and my stomach. And on account of "That damned fishy smell," I had to pass on some shrimp at dinner the next day.
But, as an adult, I'm usually eager to explore at the dinner table; Saturday was no different. After the calamari and some pepper-bread came my main course: Scallops Casino. From what I understand, they were bay scallops: white, large, tender. They sat in a platter with garnishes and a sweet sauce. I tried the first one - it went down like butter. And so did every other scallop in front of me, right down to the last one. I've eaten scallops before, and on most occasions they've been slightly chewy or, worse, rubbery. Not this time. Remember Bill Murray's dinner table performance in What About Bob? I was easily on par. Thankfully, Ed and Paul understood.
I'll be ordering seafood more often in the future.
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