A Day In The Life Of Something I Know Nothing About: Vegans

Let’s talk about meat. No, not that. You guys think all I write about is sex, but that’s not true. Those are just the only articles you read. Don’t argue with me; I read the stats.

I’m talking about food meat.

Moo.

Hi.

Our mantra here at the Big Dick Chronicles is “live life like you are in charge” and sometimes that means making decisions that don’t necessarily conform to the norms of society and culture.

For our fourth installment of the “Things I Know Nothing About” series, I decided to stretch my comfort zone a bit and explore something that I might fundamentally disagree with.

So I thought about some of the things I am passionate about. I’m passionate about sex and I am passionate about meat. (NO! Not that meat. Really you guys, stop it)

So, in my efforts to expand my horizons and open my mind to new points of view, I set out in search of a Vegan.

I’ll be honest; I was expecting this to be difficult. We all know what Vegans are like, right?

You know them when you see them.

You know them when you see them.

And I’m supposed to reach out to this chick and say, “Hey, I write The Big Dick Chronicles and I want to talk to you about meat.

Yep. Saw that one coming.

Yep. Saw that one coming.

But that’s not what happened. Let me introduce you to the real face of Vegan.

Hi. Whoa, what?

Hi. Whoa, what?

Say hello to Scott McNamara. Scott is the author of the Off Road Vegan blog which has the great tag line, “Not all vegans drive hybrids and wear skinny jeans.”

God bless you, Scott.

As soon as I saw his blog, I knew my search was over. I reached out to Scott to find out just what the hell this Vegan stuff was all about.

1. Tell me a little about yourself and how you were introduced to the Vegan worldview.
I grew up mostly in Connecticut and Vermont, eventually moving around as a nomad, following career opportunities (Project Management and consulting). I lived in Connecticut, Vermont, California, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, and now call Portland, Oregon home. I think this is where I will spend a good deal of my time.

I was introduced to veganism in a really cool way. My wife and I were driving around Cooper Landing, Alaska and stopped to have lunch. I ordered a beef burger. After lunch, we stumbled on a small mountain festival in a field. One of the tents there was for the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. In speaking with them, I learned I wanted to work for them. After a few weeks of negotiations, I soon became a project manager for AWA. Once there, my eyes were opened to the whole animal rights issues plaguing our society. I almost immediately became vegetarian (I remember my wife and I throwing away all our meat one day) and over time transitioned to veganism. It was the best choice I ever made in my life, and happened completely by happenstance.

I look for opportunities to applaud people who make the decision to live life on their own terms. A survey by Vegetarian Times found that approximately 3 percent of the US population identified as vegetarian and approximately .5 percent (1 million) identified as Vegan. By comparison, approximately 6% of the population hunt.

(I point that out simply to note that those who abstain from meat, and those who are willing to secure their own, both exists in small minorities compared to the general population)

That is definitely choosing to live your life by your own rules. Scott takes that one step further and flips the Vegan stereotype on its head.

2. For you personally, how would you define “Vegan”?
Vegan is considered by many to be a diet. For me it is a life. It is a commitment. It is swallowing the blue pill. Once you uncover the truths of veganism, you can never get your ignorance back. That is a pretty life-long commitment. It is reading every label. It’s knowing what you can order when your friends drag you to steakhouse. It’s knowing how to answer the stupid questions about protein and desert islands. It’s being able to take countless jokes and comments from friends and family. But we all do it for the best reasons.

I learned quickly that Vegan is a concept that takes on a very specific meaning to different people. But just to set a baseline, I went to Vegan.com to find their definition.
“The word vegan refers to a food or material free from any animal products: no meat, milk, eggs, honey, wool, goose down, or leather. Animal-derived byproducts, from whey to lard to gelatin, are likewise off the table. Vegans typically also go out of their way to avoid cosmetics that are tested on animals.”

I was not aware of the connection between Vegans and toiletries, make up, and other products that are animal based or animal tested. Click here for more information.

I tried to imagine the level of dedication needed to remove these products from your life.

3. What type of lifestyle adjustments did you have to make upon becoming a Vegan?

Of course, the easy ones – I got rid of meat and dairy. I stopped buying leather and wool. I started reading labels on shampoo. But for me the biggest adjustments were in the evangelism…I never knew I would love veganism so much. It’s fun being the outcast, the one that tries to convince your steakaholic friend to eat a soy curl.

As I said, it isn’t necessary for me to agree with Mr. McNamara in order to appreciate that he’s making a decision to live life on his own terms.

Okay, back to stereotypes. Scott has made a point of thumbing his nose at conventional wisdom and I wanted to find out how that felt.

4. Let’s discuss stereotypes. What type of reaction do you get when you tell people you are a Vegan? What misconceptions do you face?

The typical reaction I get is “Wait….YOU are vegan!?” And that, to me is the biggest compliment. Vegans typically have a militant/hippy/preachy stereotype attached to them. And part of why I started my blog (www.offroadvegan.com) is to help shed those stereotypes. I own many guns, I am an avid offroader, and am always told I don’t fit the vegan mold. We, as vegans, need to work hard on changing our image if we truly want veganism to become more mainstream.

Most misconceptions are that all I eat is “tofu and granola.” On a recent week-long jeeping adventure along the Rubicon Trail, my friend Jason (a carnivore), ate vegan for the week. I think he was surprised with the meals and enjoyed many of them.

Now, let’s be fair. Stereotypes exist, in part, because they are true. Scott readily admits that he is in the minority, even among minorities. Our focus here isn’t on whether I agree or disagree with the Vegan philosophy. I applaud what Scott is doing because he is working hard to be true to himself and his beliefs.

The last thing I wanted to know, is this actually good for you?
5. What benefits have you experienced since becoming a Vegan?
I have lost weight for sure. But I am not always the “healthiest” vegan in the room. I don’t eat a ton of salads and almonds for lunch. I prefer a Buff Burrito from Homegrown Smoker, a BBQ jackfruit sammy from Native Foods, or my ultimate fav – the Buffalo Bomber from Veggie Grill.

The most significant benefit for me is the emotional side of things. I don’t care if you eat meat – but if you know the suffering we inflict on innocent animals and still eat them – that is bullshit. While billions of turkeys are living in their own filth and being treated in inconceivably horrific ways, I am enjoying a Thanksgiving free of cruelty and the associated ignorance. For me, that is bliss. Knowing I am doing my best for the animals, the planet, and myself.

I also really enjoy the confidence that comes with being vegan. Any time you voluntarily subject yourself to jokes and comments from people…and sign yourself up for that, there is a confidence there. You grow thick skin and smile to yourself. I have come to really enjoy that unknown aspect of being vegan, and is partly why the blog works so well for me.

Okay, so where do I stand on this issue? Let me say again that I don’t think it is necessary to agree in order to enjoy exploring someone else’s point of view. I personally hold the position that the best way to protect an endangered species is to commercialize its production (how long would the common chicken last in the wild? And yet we’ve got billions of them). But I don’t expect anyone else to agree with me on that.

I understand his points on the commercial food industries, I’ve pointed out before my distaste for cattle lots. But I am also the only non-farmer on my road. I am surrounded by some of the best stewards of our natural resources that you will ever meet. And they work with pride in a way of life that has been passed down to them for generations.

I’ve spent my time in the poultry factories. You don’t have to be crazy to spend 8 hours a day killing chickens; you just have to be hungry. Several hundred employees, and their families, in my small hometown would suffer if those jobs didn’t exist.

I’ve told you about my moral dilemma when I shot a deer and was not able to find it. I don’t want to be that guy that wantonly kills an animal and leaves it. That turned out okay, by the way. He lived and I took him during rifle season a month later.

I appreciate the opportunity to put a face to an issue that I am completely unfamiliar with. And it was fun conversing with a guy who is arguably manlier than me; he drives a Wrangler with big tires,

Where there's a will, there's a road...

Where there’s a will, there’s a road…

I drive a Grand Cherokee with 290,000 miles. I also suspect he has a larger gun collection than I do.

I...don't have one of those.

I…don’t have one of those.

So the next time someone offers you a vegetarian dish,

That actually looks really good.

That actually looks really good.

 

give it a try. Unless it’s a dude in skinny jeans, then slap him. But not for the food, for the skinny jeans.

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A Day In The Life Of Something I Know Nothing About; Rock Climbing

This is where I grew up. Do you see the rocks?

I see one! No, that's a house. Sorry.

I see one! No, that’s a house. Sorry.

Nope? Me either.

I lived the first 18 years of my life at 299 feet above sea level. To put that in perspective, the average elevation in the US is 1,443 feet.

My wife is convinced that my personality was shaped by the landscape; flat and utterly boring. Good thing I got over that.

We did have trees, so there’s that, and I climbed them every chance I had. The view from the top of the water tower was amazing. You could see for ever.

But no rocks.

My first encounter with anything even close to rock climbing was in college. A group of guys came into the dorm covered in mud. They had gone spelunking, which is rock climbing in reverse.

“Sounds interesting,” I thought and then went back to studying.

Today, this is my version of climbing trees;

Look ma! No OSHA mandated safety harnesses!

Look ma! No OSHA mandated safety harnesses!

But still no rocks.

I really had no concept of what I was missing with rock climbing until I realized it’s the only thing standing between me and Mt. Midoriyama.

Wait. You mean this takes practice?

Wait. You mean this takes practice?

My kids are huge fans of American Ninja Warrior and it seems like 80% of the contestants are avid rock climbers. As we’ve watched the contestants perform, I’ve become more and more impressed with the skill and agility they possess. Not to mention how much fun they seem to be having.

So in honor of those who live in a world of where rocks grow large enough to climb, I decided to reach out to some avid rock climbers and find out what I’ve been missing.

Say hello to Annalisa, the author of the Climbing Together and Other Fun Adventures blog. Her blog spotlights the joys of climbing as a social activity, which is exactly what I wanted to talk about. So I reached out to her and she graciously agreed to fill me in on what it’s all about.

1. Some brief background; how long have you been involved in rock climbing/mountain climbing? What got you started? When did you really start to feel passionate about it?

1. I have been rock climbing for about 4 years. When I was a kid I always climbed everything, trees, boulders, sheds, whatever. I really got into rock climbing in its sport form (having all the gear, climbing up actual routes, and understanding what climbing is) in college. A couple friends invited me to try a climbing gym with them and I was willing to try something new and at that moment, more importantly, make some solid friendships.

I went with them and I loved it. The climbing was fun, but we also had a girl’s night climbing every week and it was very social. I liked that it could push my limits and that it was helping me overcome some of my fears and feel more confident. It was also fun. When I started, I didn’t know that I was passionate about climbing because so much of my joy from it was being with friends and having a break from school work. When I graduated though. I started to really miss climbing. I thought about it often and would try to invite someone who went to my school, but also really lived close to me at home to to go. It didn’t work out all that well.

A couple years later, I found meetup.com. I organized a rock climbing group to have partners, and then I started going a lot. I think that time was when I was really passionate. I was going a few times a week, if not almost everyday. It gave me great friends, it was how I met my boyfriend, it helped me relax and it was fun. I knew I really loved it because I’d be sad when I couldn’t go and I had the courage to go by myself when no one would go with me. I started training for it and reading about it and really becoming fully involved with the blog, facebook page, etc.

2. Your blog is built around a meetup group. Describe the rock climbing community for me. How important is the social aspect of what you do?

The interesting thing about climbing is that it is both very social and very antisocial at the same time. When you are on the climb, it is totally in your mind and all about you. Some people are competitive in climbing (usually they are competitive people in general) but for the most part it is very self competitive. People want to do the best they can be and progress.

It doesn’t really matter what other people are doing. It is very personally in how you grow, develop, and enjoy the sport. Having said that, there are many benefits to having other people there. If you are sport climbing or trad climbing (those both involve ropes but sport climbing has already placed bolts to clip into and trad climbing you place all your own protective gear) you really need a belay partner. You will have to be social with at least one person. If you are solo climbing (which is cliff climbing without any ropes) or bouldering (smaller climbs 10-20ft usually with pads to fall on instead of ropes and harnesses) you don’t need someone else. However, lots of boulder climbers are social because they like hearing how other people did it. What holds did they use, what moves did they do, what do they know about the climb. These things help them climb better.

You can climb by yourself and I know many people that do. They like being out in the woods alone with the rock and crash pad. It can also be very social where people invite everyone they know. The community is relatively small. I’ve met a lot of professional climbers and they are very approachable and humble. Many professionals will write back to my messages and be willing to hang out if you want to climb with them. It sometimes feels like all climbers know each other once you’ve been doing it for a while. When you first start out it seems like a much larger community because you don’t know anyone and there are a lot of people that climb recreationally but not all the time. Some people do it to work out, have fun with kids, etc.

3. What are some of your favorite highlights through the years? What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done while climbing?

All the dumb things I’ve done climbing are pretty typical. I was sport climbing once in a cave. I was scared of falling so I tried to clip the next clip which was way above my head. I pulled out lots of slack to make it but instead of clipping, I fell and since there was so much slack in the rope, I nearly hit the ground. Now when I climb, I try really hard to just keep climbing when scared knowing the fall is safer cause there is less slack out.

We all make stupid mistakes and learn from them. Some have harsher consequences than others. A lot of mistakes can be ego driven. You think you’re strong and this climb is easy so you don’t pay as much attention, etc. Some are honest mistakes, and some just can’t be helped.

Many of my climbing highlights have to do with places I’ve traveled to. I loved climbing in Bishop, CA. I’m from CT so that is a pretty far trip for me. It was beautiful out there. I absolutely fell in love with the town and the climbs. I liked going to the Red River Gorge. We stayed in an amazing log cabin with a fire place and hot tub, had some of the best pizza ever at Miguels, and just enjoyed all the cool nature things like seeing tons of deer that practically walk right up to you. I saw some of the most unbelievable sunsets and moons and stars I’ve ever seen.

Some of my best moments have been just talking with friends over campfires and hanging out. Some of it has been accomplishments. I won second place in a climbing competition and got a free rope, free jacket, free shoes, and free chalk bag. I felt like a pro. I also felt really excited climbing my first V5 because it was the hardest grade I had climbed. There are lots of memorable moments.

4. If I decided I wanted to get involved in rock climbing today, what do I need to know? How hard would it be to just jump in at age 36?

It is fine to climb at any age. People always think its best to start as a kid because they are fearless and pick up things fast, but any age is fine. There are some hard climbers who are older. Some people climbing when they are 80 or 90. It’s fine.

The best place to start is usually a gym because you can rent all the gear. Some places do outdoor guiding which is often more expensive than a day at the gym but it gets you outside with all the gear you need and a professional to help teach you. Going outside on your own is hard unless you have experienced friends. You do need equipment and to know what you are doing. Some people are really intense about only climbing outside, but I think a gym is a good starting place. It is important to know you will progress and get better.

The first time is just about having fun and seeing if it is something you want to invest in buying the gear for and learning more about. You can certainly just keep going to a gym and renting without every buying a single thing. Having fun is important. Everyone starts somewhere and the more time and practice you put in, the better you get. With meetup groups, gyms having partner boards or programs, and belay classes, you met a lot of people. So I don’t think it is hard to get started. You take a class, meet some fellow beginners, meet experienced people through out the gym and build your community. Most climbers are easy going and willing to help someone learn.

5. There isn’t a lot of natural terrain to work with where I live. What options do I have for getting involved?
Some people have cliffs in their back yard some people have to drive three hours to get to one. There are gyms everywhere though, which is helpful. They help you learn, have an afterwork place to go, and meet other climbers. As you know more and get better you can always plan climbing trips. Gyms are a good option for places without much natural rock though.

6. One of my concerns with new hobbies is start up costs. If I wanted to start climbing, how much am I going to spend on equipment just to make sure I don’t kill myself?

Climbing can be expensive. To some degree it is how much you are willing to spend, but to some degree it is pricey. For my local gym a day pass is $17, equipment rental adds on about $10 more and the belay classes are about $30 (they are usually one time though). Many gyms have memberships for $50-$70 a month. To buy your own gear you are looking at shoes from about $70-$170, ropes from $100-$300, harnesses about $50-$100, chalk bags like $10-$30. You don’t need them all right away if you can rent though. Crash pads are a couple hundred usually too, but some you can rent for a day for like $15. It can get expensive but you can pay over time. I got my own shoes, then chalk bag, then harness, etc over like a couple months.

Another important thing is that a lot of people think if they have a fear of heights they can’t climb. I actually have a really bad fear of heights, and love climbing. You just need to get comfortable falling at gradual heights, right off the ground, then a little higher up. For many people since they are facing a wall they don’t really notice. The gear also keeps you really safe and secure.

Helmets aren’t required but they are a good idea and one I’d probably recommend.

So if you are looking for a new adventure, or just a great reason to get together with some friends, go climb something. I still haven’t found any rocks near my place, but I’m taking a hard look at some of those trees.

 

A Day In The Life Of Something I Know Nothing About; Metropolitan Living

When I tell you I live in a rural area, I’m not exaggerating.

Do you see the white speck right in the middle? That's me.

Do you see the white speck right in the middle? That’s me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the wastelands of South Dakota where people don’t actually exist. We have electricity, running water and internet service; just not a lot of it.

As part of my ongoing series exploring things I know nothing about, I wanted to find out how different life is in the big city. What am I missing, tucked away in my quiet little corner of the world?

So I reached out to Anna at the Home and Away blog for some insight on metropolitan living.

Now, we’re all about low brow humor hear at the Big Dick Chronicles. How I came into contact with such a lovely, sophisticated woman as Anna still puzzles me. But I’m not going to question my good fortune, I’m just going to pump her for information to help improve my blog.

She was kind enough to assist me and as I read her responses, I found that our lives could not be more different.

1. Some brief background; what is your history of metropolitan living? How much of your life has been spent in large cities? What was your earliest age for living in a large city?

“I was born in Moscow and raised in the center of the city – the Kremlin was down the street from my school.

See that white spot in the middle? That's the Kremlin.

See that white spot in the middle? That’s the Kremlin.

Then, after a bit of back and forth between continents, I moved to the United States as a teen. After high school years spent in Suburbia (Maryland and Rhode Island) I went to college in Washington, DC and moved to New York City (Manhattan) after graduation. Nearly seven years later I was back to Moscow, which is where I live now. Oh, and while in college, I spent a year studying abroad in Paris and Madrid. When I travel internationally I tend to stick to cities for most of my itinerary as well – London, Florence, Amsterdam.”

Let’s put some context to that. The city of Moscow has a current population of approximately 11.9 million in an area of approximately 1,000 square miles. That’s a population density of 11,900 people per square mile.

In contrast, I have lived 93% (I did the math) of my life in areas with less than 10,000 people. More than half of that time has been spent in areas with less than 500 people. I currently live in the country, in a county with less than 10,000 people in 400 square miles. That’s an average of 25 people per square mile.

2. When you were younger (teens, college age) what did a night on the town look like?

“College was all about clubs on weekends. We were a pretty mainstream crowd – no funky underground musicians for us, just so we could seem cool! But we’d dance all night and then get a falafel from a corner cart at dawn before passing out. One of the unsung benefits of big city living is that nobody cards you at restaurants, especially when you’re wearing a suit on the way back from Congressional internship. So when not dancing, my friends and I would go out to “nice” DC restaurants for cocktails – we were such sophisticates! – and foreign policy debates. I don’t think any of us ever had a fake ID.”

We're gonna play Where's Waldo on DCclubbing.com until we find her.

We’re gonna play Where’s Waldo on dcclubbing.com until we find her.

In the late 90’s MTV aired a show “Sex in the 90’s” that highlighted the differences in life in New York versus middle America. The small town was Monett, MO. Not where I’m from, but nearby and similar enough. I wish I could find a clip to show you, but it’s long gone. Watching them try to describe the weekend “night life” in a small down was quite disturbing.

What do small town teens do on the weekend?

“Well, you just drive around on the main drag. Most folks turn around down there at the Sonic and then you drive down to the Casey’s store and turn around there. And you do that until you either find a girl or run out of gas money.”

Oh my.

My weekends were spent in a town of about 7,000 people. Our strip was the McDonald’s to the movie theater parking lot. When we ran out of gas money, we would run home and grab our bikes and just ride around town until 3 am.

Did I mention that I wasn’t real successful with the ladies?

But that was then. What about now?

3. And now? What does a night on the town look like as an adult?

“I certainly don’t take full advantage of Moscow’s nightlife, which is vivid and boisterous, because in my old age I am yawning by 1 am.(I actually tried to find some photos of Moscow nightlife to insert here, but they were all highly inappropriate for this article.)

Instead it’s theater (I have a dozen within walking distance from my apartment), a fancy lounge if a coworker is throwing a party (sugary cocktails have been replaced with vodka rocks with lemon), or a pub – my favorite. The weekends now are all about winding down from work, rather than being released into the wild!
In New York, one of my favorite things to do on a summer weekend was to go to the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for champagne, funky installations and gorgeous city views.”

Okay, that's just not fair.

Okay, that’s just not fair.

Being in a rural area, we live an hour from everywhere. So a night on the town often begins with the hunt for a babysitter. Our over night babysitter is often the in-laws who are an hour away. That means we have to start by 4 pm, or we spend the first two to three hours of the evening driving.

Once that’s out of the way, we can choose from a movie, dinner, or an occasional comedian. Most times, we opt to just stay in. Grill a steak and watch cheesy movies until bed time.

We are starting to spend more weekends getting together with friends. This involves hanging out, grilling burgers, and drinking my buddy’s home brewed beer while the kids play. We’ve got friends coming over this weekend to enjoy some adult conversation while the kids run wild in the pool.

One of the things I hear people complain about is that it is too quiet in the country.

4. Step outside at 10:00 pm. What do you hear?:”

“Traffic! After-work rush hour might be over, but restaurant, theater and club rush is in full swing. Oh, and construction – usually for another hour at least.”

What do I hear? Bugs. Especially crickets. From every direction. Occasionally, the cicadas come around and it sounds like an electric generator right outside your windows. There was a pack of coyotes off in the distance tonight and occasionally, a semi out on the highway two miles away.

5. Let’s see a photo of what your daily life looks like.

The taxi ride to work.

The taxi ride to work.

The view from my office.

The view from my office.

What an amazing amount of life that is going on all around!

This is the view from my driveway;

Can you see my neighbor? Me either.

Can you see my neighbor? Me either.

There is a house back there somewhere.

There is a house back there somewhere.

I always enjoy finding out what people enjoy most from their adventures. So I asked.

6. What has been your favorite place to live? Your least favorite?

“I LOVED living in Manhattan. New York overwhelms a lot of people and I think the key here is finding your own little corner that’s a spiritual match of sorts. For me it was the quiet, green streets of the Upper East Side, with lots of sushi restaurants and Irish pubs. I took to it like fish to the water. Also the months spent in Madrid were pretty epic – that’s the city that embodies the “never sleep” mantra more than any other where I’ve lived. And I love Moscow, of course!

On the flip side there was Paris. Beautiful but overrun with tourists 365 days a year, it was also very difficult to enjoy for a poor college student incidentally placed in a very posh neighborhood. I was constantly counting my Euro-centimes and couldn’t do what I wanted to. It felt like a city for the rich – unlike NYC or Madrid, which could be easily enjoyed on the cheap.”

My current location is by far my favorite, mostly because it is mine. It’s the home that I’ve helped create. This is the place where I first began to feel like an adult.

The small towns where I grew up held too much dysfunction for me to romanticize; mostly because they were filled with my dysfunctional family. I don’t miss them.

Metropolitan life is so starkly different from anything I’ve ever experienced, that I can’t help but wonder, what am I missing?

7. What is the attraction of city life?

“So many – where do I start?! I think for most people, myself included, it’s about 24-7 access – to food, entertainment, basic services. It’s about freedom – doing what you want when you want to. It’s about choice – whether of the kind of cuisine I want to have for dinner, or whether I want to spend my weekend at a zoo or a movie theater or ice skating rink or a park. It’s about being able to call a friend on a whim and meet for a drink half an hour later, without anyone having to drive several towns over. It’s about having a dozen of friends and acquaintances all connected through metro lines. I also have a strong feeling of community and safety in a city – we are all in this together. If something happens there are a dozen doors I can knock on in 2 minutes. You are never alone. I love that.”

Dang, it’s hard to compete with that.

I think the first attraction of country life is the freedom. The land is mine to cultivate, build, create as I please. Life in the country requires a degree of self reliance. I have to know a moderate amount about construction, auto mechanics, and household repairs. We’re too far removed from service providers to call someone out every time something goes wrong.

There is no intrusion, no loud neighbors that keep me up at night. I can go outside and pee in the yard. We can swim naked in the pool at two in the afternoon (when the kids are still at school).

We basically live in a park. I can sit in a tree stand and watch a bobcat walk by 40′ away. Tonight I watched two large bucks jump across our road and into the woods next door. I’ve watched a coyote walk up to the base of my tree while hunting. We had a flying squirrel that liked to sneak into a closet and eat our dog treats.

It is quiet and relaxed. We don’t need speed bumps on our road. It’s gravel. Common sense keeps you at a leisurely pace.

So what if that all changed tomorrow? What if my job suddenly threw me in the middle of New York City?

8. After living my entire life in a rural setting, what would be the hardest adjustment if my family suddenly had to move to a very large city?

“Oh boy. This I can answer only based on the complaints of suburbanites who’ve visited me in New York or Moscow. Thus I am going to throw three options at you.
1-The noise and the lights. You would probably need earplugs and light-blocking curtains to go to sleep. By contrast, I have a problem going to sleep in a rural area because it is quiet and scary and creepy.
2-The traffic, both human and automotive. There is always a congestion, there is always honking, there are always people pushing you aside if you’re blocking their path onto the train. Everyone crosses on the red light when the cops aren’t looking. It’s mad. Only the strongest will survive.
3-There is no back yard for the kids to play in. You have to go to a park or a playground, and usually some supervision is best. In the summer a lot of people head out to the countryside at least for a few weeks. BUT – there are zoos and sea worlds and museums and festivals and amusement parks and educational resources like no other. I loved growing up in the city.
PS – there is a persistent stereotype of city people as rude and unfriendly. It is totally false. We just don’t like it when anyone is blocking the sidewalk as we rush to office/home/theater.”

Hearing this wonderful homage to city life, I’m left with the question; am I missing out?

The city is a wonderful life for some, but I’m a very laid back introvert. I would feel crushed in the city. The teeming masses would suck all of the energy out of me. Conversely, some people cannot handle the openness and lack of creature comforts that come from life in the country. To them, the silence is deafening.

What did I learn from researching this post? If I ever travel to the city, I better find a guide. I would be completely lost and forget to enjoy a single moment of it.

When you’ve had your fill of dick jokes, I highly recommend you check out Anna’s blog for some legitimate culture. She has some unbelievably beautiful photos from her travels throughout the world and travel magazine quality commentary.

A Day In The Life Of Something I Know Nothing About: Gaming

I’m not talking about pickup artist gaming,

I got that shit down.

I got that shit down.

I’m talking about the world of video games.

I’m 36 years old and some days I feel like the world’s youngest crotchety old man. Nothing makes me feel like the world is passing me by more than technology. It seems like I’ve been saying, “I don’t understand these kids and their new fangled i-things” for the last 15 years.

Along with my almost petulant aversion to technology, I found myself disavowing video games as well.

Let me tell you how bad it is. I never owned anything newer than a Nintendo. (For myself. The kids has a Wii and we just bought a used Xbox 360) My last video game purchase was Legend of Zelda.

I never made it past the fourth level.

I never made it past the fourth level.

The only video game I ever beat was Kung Fu. I’ve never engaged in a multi-player online game. Hell, I didn’t even play Farmville.

So, what have I been missing?

To find out, I reached out to a video game aficionado, Rich Drummond, editor and founder of Gaming Tech United. He graciously agreed to answer some questions to bring me up to speed with the gaming world.

Some brief background; How long have you been gaming? When did you really start to feel passionate about it?
I’ve been gaming for literally my whole life. Growing up in a house with younger parents, (Mom was 20, Dad was 21), my dad frequently played his Sega Genesis with his buddies, so I was always playing those games when I was growing up. Being born in 1993, I was also the exact target age group for Pokemon when that craze started up, so just like every kid my age, the Pokemon video game were always plugged into my Game Boy Color. When I was older, I eventually bought a Xbox 360 and from there my love for video games really blossomed.
I grew really passionate around 2011 when a game called The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim came out. It was after that game that my love of writing and video games came together. I started a site entitled Richie D Rants and eventually wanted a more professional platform, I created Gaming Tech United, where I am right now.”

Notice that he indicates that he dad was frequently playing Sega Genesis as an adult back in ’93. My age group, kids from the 80’s were the first generation to grow up with video games in the home. You might assume that we are also the first generation of adults that are avid video game players, but you’d be wrong.

While my age group makes up the majority of players, the age group 36+ makes up 36% of players, we aren’t the first generation of adults to play. When I was 5 years old (1982) my dad (a single father) and all of his friends had Atari 2600’s. And none of the other guys had kids. Keep in mind, this thing had a retail price of $125 in 1982. This was not a toy and we kids had to ask permission to play it.

"This is a highly complex computer thingy. You kids wouldn't understand what to do with it."

“This is a highly complex computer thingy. You kids wouldn’t understand what to do with it.”

While the dynamic of adults playing video games is nothing new, the “community” of gaming has changed drastically.

My dad’s community was a group of guys sitting around drinking beer, playing games with no save function. It was a competition, like a basketball game. When the game was over, you went home and started from scratch the next time you got together.

In my teenage years, my gaming community consisted of swapping cheat codes for Contra (guys..up up down down left right left right BA..am I right?) and letting the kids down the street borrow and get through the first seven levels of Zelda for me.

In today’s gaming world, community is everything. Not only do a majority of games offer multiplayer modes, but the interaction involved in online discussions has exploded. A google search for the phrase “gaming forum” gets 179,000,000 results.

Describe what the gaming community was like when you first got into this.
The gaming community has and always will be a very bipolar animal. It hasn’t changed much since I was younger, but with the internet, those who are uneducated are now louder than ever. There are many people that get more enjoyment out of shitting on what other gamers enjoy, but no matter what sort of games you’re in to, there is a message board, chat group or website for you.
That’s always been the great thing about the community. From the day I jumped in, there’s always been a great group of people that enjoy the things you do.

How would you describe today’s gaming community? How important, to you, is the social aspect of gaming?
Like I’ve stated before, the internet has intensified a lot of trolls and just plain assholes, but it has also brought together a lot of great and creative people. Dedicated gaming sites and message boards are bigger than ever and even some of the biggest YouTubers are creating video game sites.
All in all, the social aspect of gaming is a pretty integral part of the community. From message boards, to gaming websites, to multiplayer games, the video games community and industry will only continue to expand.

A key point that he brings up; whatever your interests, there is already a large group out there to share it with. I assumed that if I tried to get into gaming today I would be lost in this overwhelming sea of information. But the gaming community has grown so large that you can narrow your focus to your specific interests and still find everything you need to get started.

For instance, one of the few games I’ve actually enjoyed as an adult was Mortal Kombat. The game has been released multiple times and is available on all the current platforms. There are entire forums devote solely to this one game franchise. And they’re active, too. At 6:00 am on a Wednesday morning, there were over 100 uses online at trmk.org.

Or maybe you insist on being stuck in the past, like me. Head on over retrocollect.com’s retro gaming forum with nearly 7,000 topics and over 8,000 members.

My point is, no matter what your level of interest, it is still available for you today.

Since I was feeling a bit nostalgic, I asked Rich about some of his favorite highlights over the years.

Like I stated before, Pokemon was the first big gaming craze I was into. From trading and training them, all the way to flaunting them to your buddies, Pokemon was a blast when I was growing up. When the Xbox 360 came out, Halo 3 was a game that my buddies and I really got our money’s worth out of. I don’t like the series that much anymore, but that game was a blast for us.
As I get older, I’m starting to enjoy more single player experiences, like Skyrim and BioShock Infinite as it’s nice to sit back, relax and play a game at my own pace. The best part about the advancement in technology has been the addition of voice chat, so that while I may be playing a single player game alone at my apartment at college, I can still talk to my buddies from back home.

My highlights were River Raid and Boxing on Atari.

Note the conspicuous lack of Hispanics. These games were so unrealistic.

Note the conspicuous lack of Hispanics. These games were so unrealistic.

I still had it in my head that the video gaming world had past me by and it was just moving too fast for me to consider jumping on board. The idea of jumping into a multi-player online game overwhelms me and I assumed that it would be a complete non-starter. If you aren’t already and avid gamer, don’t bother starting now. Nobody has the time to sit down and teach grandpa how to turn on an Xbox.

It turns out, Rich thinks just the opposite.

If I decided I wanted to get involved in gaming today, what do I need to know? How hard would it be to just jump in?
I believe now is the easiest time to jump into the gaming community. Not only is the online community pretty welcoming, there are plenty of walkthroughs and how-to’s that can be found online. The console experience is streamlined to the point that even a grandparent could learn how to operate them and the vast genres of games will satisfy anyone’s tastes.

Well I’ll be damned.

My last big concern about gaming wasn’t just how much I had missed, but how much more complex is it going to get. I’m afraid that just about the time I figure it out, everyone will be moving on to something else I don’t understand and I’ve wasted my time. So I asked Rich what he thought was on the horizon.

What changes in the gaming world do you see coming in the next 1-5 years? Are they going to make it easier or more difficult for new members to join the community?
The next “big thing” that will be hitting the gaming world in the near future is the use of Virtual Reality devices. These are found in things like the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. These devices will actually put gamers into their games and give the experience a big boost. It may also help a new crowd get into gaming as there will be fewer things to control/buttons to press and make the experience more true to life. Will this just be a fad like 3D? Will it crash and burn like the Virtual Boy? Time will only tell, but there are many people in the gaming world that are really excited to see where it’s going to go.

So maybe the gaming world isn’t so scary after all. I am a grown ass man after all, I can still learn something new. So, to prove that, I bought a new video game today.

Wii-Mortal Kombat

Well, it isn’t a new game. It’s actually six years old, but it’s new to me. I’m hoping to be pulling my son’s spine out through his throat by this time next week.

I asked Rich if he had a recommended top 5 sites if you want to learn more about gaming. He recommended the following:

IGN
Kotaku
The Escapist Magazine
Giant Bomb
Joystiq

You can find out more about Rich Drummond at the following;