Think

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Today marks 16 years since I stood and watched on live TV the World change forever.

Looking up from this screen, to the apex of the roof of the room I type in, there are three pictures I took on my first trip to New York in the 1990’s. I saw the Towers but never went up them: Mr Alt is afraid of heights, and it was a trip too much back then. When we returned to New York last year and saw the Memorial, I cried for some time. It is a beautiful piece of art, which serves a useful purpose and not simply as reminder. The flowing water, at least for me, is the prompt that life moves on regardless of your perception. Then I saw the roses, left by the name of each victim who would be celebrating a birthday when we visited. Sometimes, when your life has been given in tragedy, there is no moving forward.

You will forever be known as a victim, and this breaks my heart.

The Twin Towers are always in my thoughts #september11th

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With all the chaos in the world, events like 9/11 are normally only recalled to public consciousness in anniversary multiples of ten or twenty-five. I understand that this allows a measure of closure for some. However, knowing that so many people who died on that day have never been found because bodies were effectively incinerated to nothing is not an image that ever truly leaves. The trail of death in the last sixteen years across the planet is numbing: refugees in the Mediterranean, hurricane victims, Grenfell Tower… a constant reminder that death is part of life, yes, but when man’s own anger, greed and stupidity is at fault? You should #neverforget any of this. Don’t let it own your existence, yes, allow it instead to temper reaction and response.

Become better by learning from the anger and fear it creates.

This week I am determined to be better than those who feel they have nothing to learn. I will listen when spoken to and try to be calm and relaxed. I will reconnect with body via Mindfulness. This will be a week of progress, by understanding that the past has a great deal to teach us about how to live in the present.

Then, I will look to the future.

Finally

Before I started here, I wrote an e-mail to a very dear friend in which I apologised for starting something I now no longer wish to pursue. It’s nothing at all to do with him, in essence, and absolutely everything to do with me. Another good, dear friend made a point, before I started Podcasting, that it had the potential to derail me from a greater task. I now understand he was right, but without the confidence and insight that period of my life afforded me, I would not have progressed this far to begin with. Sometimes, certain decisions are necessary in order for us to move forward, but when they become a hindrance? You need to make harsh choices based on what matters most.

Therefore, there will be no more Gaming Podcasting for me in the future.

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It is not a decision I’ve taken lightly, but as it transpires I don’t want to pursue a career in that form of work, and I never will. Yes, the gaming is great and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t owe it a great deal (and still do) but ambition, ultimately, is having the confidence in my own words and ideas. To do that, there has to be more effort in that direction. I already have work ready, websites primed, all that is required now is the conscious shift away from the focus of pixels. That’s been happening for a while now anyway, but this way if I say that there’s a push forward and gaming is a *part* of my life but not what matters most? I can actually be honest with everybody for a change.

I think that’s going to matter a lot moving forward.

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My holiday was, like it or not, a life-changing experience. Giving a sense of scale to what you do is really very important. Understanding your significance in larger spheres, for starters, is summat that is beginning to have some tangible consequences. Watching how others deal with your opinions, that having them can often be tantamount to condemnation in the eyes of those who only see their own goals as mattering… I’m not here to crush competitors underfoot and smear other writers in a focused march to domination. My gaming experience has served as a good barometer of what to expect when I deal with other ‘players’ in the game of Real Life. Some people are only happy when you agree with them, and get the right hump when it is apparent than not only have you ideas, but aren’t afraid to wield them. I learn that salutatory lesson every day: if you choose to interact with someone, and then don’t like what they say or disagree… how do you react?

Words, never forget, are more powerful weapons than any hard earned quest reward.

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Choices are crossroads, quandaries before new and interesting directions. I came to grasp while I was away just how much I have been shaped not simply by the games, but the people I know who play and follow me, not simply on social media but beyond. Without Duncan, Mike, David, Allison, Liz, Julia, Ben, Hannah, Myles and all the other people that sprang forth from the wellspring of Computer Gaming acquaintances to become friends, confidantes and supporters, I’d simply not be here. Then there are those I only know by a user name or Twitter handle, or the random nature of a set of e-mail exchanges. The woman who found my blog and used it to keep her sane whilst her mother was in the Hospital, being treated for cancer. The guy who read every post and thanked me for the time and effort put into every one. Everyone has become a part of my whole and helped me forward, and I will remember them all, even if I don’t have the ability to recall them all.

More importantly, those who have hated on me and abused my choices and criticised my decisions? You make me stronger. I listen and learn. You may not wish that your words actually make me more determined to succeed, but they do. If I am confident the criticism is justified, it does get acted on. You didn’t expect that, now did you, but I have a great deal to thank Podcasting for. Mostly it made me realise that unless the output is something I’m proud of putting my name to? It isn’t worth the pain of criticism to begin with. In the end, I’ve had a really good run of content, I learnt a lot about myself in the process, but most importantly of all I now grasp that to move forward, I need to hold and wield the confidence of my own projects alone.

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All of this therefore points to a direction where, like it or not, people will lose interest with me once it becomes apparent I’m here for an ambition that doesn’t start and end with an MMO. That’s absolutely fine, and I’m prepared to accept that if people only want a single focus, then they’re entitled to come and go as they please. The fact remains, what I am is so tightly wound around gaming I’d find it impossible to separate writing from that anyway. It is what I am, and have always been. The only difference now, is that I am a gamer who wants to publish a novel. Probably quite a few.

Time to get started on that as a matter of urgency.

Big Man on Mulberry Street

And as if by magic, it’s the working week again, and I’m back from a holiday that seems all the more dreamlike than California did last year. I went for a long walk around my neighbourhood last night and was immediately struck by just how quiet this place is, how little goes on when compared to the 24/7 full on noise and smell that New York shoves at you. I think that is why I prefer it to the West Coast, on reflection: there’s no hiding how shabby and unkempt NY can be, despite numerous attempts to cover it up. It’s that mate you have that never shows up to formal events looking immaculate, and you love them all the more for their refusal to play to situation. My daughter found the town genuinely frightening, and I can now understand why. For me, it’s a lot closer to my personality than I’d casually care to admit.

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I’ve not mentioned the apartment we stayed in, which was found via AirBNB and proved to be the master stroke for the ten days away. Apart from spotty WiFi there was pretty much nothing wrong with the place: huge, comfortable and allowing us not to have to play to a Hotel’s schedule or menu. It gave ten days where we could find a haven amongst what was often a chaotic city, quiet reflection in often debilitating heat and humidity. Most importantly however we could wash clothes, cook meals and eat pizza as if the place was ours. It gave the kids their own rooms too, which if we’d had to pay for the privilege in a hotel would have effectively doubled the price of the Holiday. I can fully understand why the Leisure Industry sees such a threat in private rentals, as the NY Yellow Cabs view Uber as threatening their livelihood. The Yellow Cabs may have an app now, but if you won’t let us specify a large car to take our bags to the Airport? You’re no use to us. There’s a lot of lessons to be learnt as the concept of ‘holiday’ changes, and not all of them will be learnt.

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I need to document a few last things: the experiences at Ground Zero are still quite fresh and raw, and with 15 years coming up next month, I think I might hold back on that until the correct time. The number of Space Shuttles I’ve seen now is two: we ‘did’ the USS Intrepid as our last day (and the Enterprise by definition), with the evening on Mulberry Street so I could cross ‘eat Cannoli in Little Italy’ off my Bucket List. Of all the things I did in the ten days it will be the Egyptian collection at the Met that sticks most in the memory, but the evening walks that struck at me most deeply. The city is its most seductive at night, and I am a sucker for a romantic gesture.

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I’ve got a lot of new stuff planned, which I’ll clue you in on starting when School does next month. For now however I am content to keep plugging away at the various strands of life already being worked on. That means I’ll be doing PT later today, editing Bond before lunch, and generally attempting to make sense of the mess that is my life in between. At least now I can be confident I’ve found a part of the US I’d not grow tired of living in. All that’s left now is to fill in some of the gaps in between.

 

Home Again

Without wanting to jinx it, I seem to have adjusted back to UK time with considerable more ease this time around than I did last year. I’m aware I owe you coverage of the last two days of Holiday, but I’m still processing a lot of that anyway (because content made me shift in thinking), and pretty much as soon as I got back there was throwing myself into gaming, tidying plus scrambling back on the fitness wagon. The best news I could have had from the scales this morning was what I got: I’ve lost weight, despite doing about 10% less exercise over the last 10 days than I do normally. Exercise and heat will have a lot to do with this, plus I maintained the 36 push ups a day regime throughout.

Needless to say, I have a ton of new headers to make tomorrow, plus a lot more besides and I’ll be starting early. I’m back, and you’ll get normal service again starting tomorrow :D

Quiet Life

There wasn’t really a plan yesterday, and so that meant a fair bit of wandering about, but as it transpires it ended up as one of the best days of the holiday. We again set the task for the oldest to find us a restaurant to eat in for the main meal of the day, and he picked what I thought by name might be a problematic suggestion. However, I should have more confidence in my son’s choices. The Times Square Bar and Grill was a triumph of 1970’s design, and served possibly the most amazing Vegetable Quesadilla I have ever tasted. In fact, I’ll freely admit I’ve been searching out recipes to try and repeat this when I get home.

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Design wise, I’d love to know who was responsible for the construction of this place. It was so 1970’s but utterly beautiful despite that. That made eating a pleasure and people watching even more so, and the place was far enough off the beaten track to mean we were able to eat quietly and not worry about the excessive tourism that Times Square produces. Of all the places we’ve visited this holiday, that’s one I will not miss one iota when we return home. It’s the most touristy of traps, packed with people and ways to separate you from your cash. It was horrible, and I hated every minute we were there. So, while Mr Alt went to buy a guitar, the kids and I went to Battery Park, which has free wifi and therefore became a couple of hours of hardened gaming in the sunshine.

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All told, being able to ‘play’ outside was fantastic. I’m close to L20, have a spare Americas-only Pokemon to trade with once they open that ability, and have been able to watch my kids have a great time doing something they enjoy in a completely different environment. To be honest, the app’s been a godsend when both youngest and oldest have bored of us dragging them about, and for me yesterday it was hugely satisfying to be able to complete evolutions and get XP, and at the same time sit and watch Battery Park move past. More importantly, a remarkable number of other people were playing, across a vast age range. It was a revelation for my husband, who finally grasps just how significant this phenomena has become.

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Then, as the sun went down over New York, we found ourselves at Ground Zero,and the Twin Towers Memorial. Seeing it at twilight was all the more sobering, and as I watched people taking selfies at the monument, I couldn’t help but think this was inappropriate. I understand the need to record holiday memories, but not like that. My son asked me where I was the day it happened: I told him I was with him, ironing in the front room of our house with him in his baby chair, when I saw the first plane hit. There were a lot of tears, especially when it became apparent that white roses are left in the names of each victim on the day of their birthdays. It is a very sympathetic and moving monument, and I’m extremely glad we went. Then we made our way home, via the new Westfield Shopping Centre built next to the site. It is a stunning building, which from the outside looks like the wings of a dove.

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I’m also not 100% comfortable with the Twin Towers site becoming a centre of mass consumption, but as has been established I am not the target audience for such things to begin with. There’s no argument however, America does large and showy better than just about anyone else: whether it is Times Square or shopping complexes, you’ll be hard pressed to better them.

All Time High

It was inevitable I’d get behind, but in reality that’s not as big a deal as I’d make it out. The last couple of days have gravitated around Macy’s: my daughter and son have both saved spending money to buy clothing here, and even I took the plunge and have picked up a pile of cheap sportswear: even with the Brexit state of currency, I saved money, and it is entirely worth the effort to drag myself around sale racks. Plus, with Macy’s free wifi, I’ve managed to get almost to L19 at Pokemon Go, and as this is my only gaming fix right now? Very much required and needed.

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Monday was the Yankees (who won 1-0, in a game that at times was pretty average) and yesterday was the Empire State, which was beautifully queue free. My husband has a fear of heights, and I have to say I was proud of him going up as far as he did. Adults have been managing on two meals a day and yesterday’s Diner (Andrews) gave us top food, smoothies and Olympic coverage. In fact, as far as food goes so far, I think this beat the hipster vibe of Harlem. It was honest, decent and very delicious, and I even sneaked in a slice of Red Velvet to boot. All in all, a fabulous couple of days.

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There was a plan to do the USS Intrepid today, but I’m not sure that will come to pass: we only have two more days here so what now gets done is dictated by enthusiasm and not desire. I’ve visited everywhere I’ve wanted to, kids seem quite happy with what has transpired, so now it’s down to what else we can do in the time available. Mostly, I’m keeping out of discussions and having a shower, and hopefully by the time I’m done there’ll be a consensus.

Bring on the day :D

History Repeating

Okay, yesterday was Sunday, right? That means I’m at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it’s the largest collection of Egyptian objects outside of Egypt (I believe) It also means an unreasonable amount of squeezing like a fangirl, and I did not disappoint on that front. Even writing about it now is making me happy internally. There’s a metric buttonne of pictures on Flickr for those of you who care but for me? I lose myself in a civilisation that has fascinated me since, I’ll freely admit, a book of my parents on Tutankhamun. Before then I didn’t have a clue about anything related to life before Christ. Now, it has become one of my favorite diversions as an adult.

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There is a remarkable amount of scope in the Met’s collection, it must be said, and the curation insider this museum is very reminiscent of the V&A in terms of sympathy and situation. However it was the number of small objects that stunned me: tiny, intricate pieces of art, hand-worked jewelry, pots, painted panels… The range was staggering. I’ve realised I want more pieces of Egyptian art in my life, something I’ll attempt to remedy on my return to the UK. For now, I’m just staggered by the details: so many, and all so totally beautiful. Many new blog headers will be created as a result.

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However it wasn’t just Egypt on display: quite fortuitously for me, there was a special exhibit on clothing: Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. This meant an entire area dedicated to some of the most iconic looks in modern fashion, and how contemporary designers are using cutting edge materials and processes to reinvent the iconic looks. However much I was impressed by the colours, use of 3D printed materials or fabrics? It was the black evening gowns that reduced me to speechless wonder. There was one Coco Chanel dress in particular, from the 1920’s, which is as close to perfect as I think I’ve ever seen fabric designed. I may not wear makeup, or spend hours on my appearance, but I sure as fuck know special when I see it.

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So, I bought a catalogue, all $55 of it. I don’t remember the last time I spent that much on anything printed, but it is worth every single cent. Then we walked through Central Park, and visited Dana Barratt’s apartment block which, on cue, had nothing thunder and lightning burst forth around it shortly before the heavens opened and soaked the world. Then it was Dominos and the Olympics and I don’t care I only got about five hours sleep because yesterday was officially my best day for some time.

I LOVE THIS TOWN.